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Vol. I. INTRODUCTION : Definition, Scope, 
Object, Sources, Methods, His 
tory, and Literature of Moral 
293 pp. $1.50. 

Vol. II. Sin and the Means of Grace, vi 
& 230 pp. $1.50. 

Vol. III. Man s Duties to Himself, iv & 
184 pp. $2.00. 

Vol. IV. Man s Duties to God. vi & 424 

pp. $2.50. 

Vol. V. Man s Duties to His Fellowmen. 
viii & 624 pp. $3.00. 





Professor of Theology in the University of Tubingen 









Printed in U. S. A. 


Sti. Ludovici, die n. Jan. 1928, 

Joannes Rothensteiner, 
Censor Librorum 


Sti. Ludovici, die 14. Jan. 1928, 

Hh Joannes J. Glennon, 
Archie pise opus 

Copyright 1919 

First Edition, 1918 

Second Edition, 1919 

Third Edition, 1928 

Vail-Ballou Press, Inc., Binghamton and New York 

- 1 3 7 ^ 
1 o 1946 




CH. I. Nature and Origin of Sin Mortal and Venial 

Sins Temptations and Occasions of Sin . . I 

i. Nature and Origin of Sin I 

2. Mortal and Venial Sins 16 

3. Distinctive Characteristics of Mortal and Venial 

Sin 29 

4. Temptations and Occasions of Sin 36 

CH. II. The Principal Kinds of Sin 52 

i. General Division 52 

2. The Seven Capital Sins 67 

3. The Sins That Cry to Heaven for Vengeance . . 85 

4. The Sin Against the Holy Ghost 91 


CH. I. The Causes of Moral Regeneration 98 

I. The Supernatural Principle of Moral Regenera 
tion 98 

2. The Natural Requisite of Moral Regeneration . 104 

CH. II. The Sacraments as Divinely Instituted Means of 

Grace 108 

i. The Moral Requisites of Valid Administration . 108 
2. The Moral Requisites of Worthy Reception . .115 

3. Baptism and Confirmation 118 

4. The Holy Eucharist 123 

5. Penance 135 

Art. i. Contrition 140 

Art. 2. The Purpose of Amendment . . . .146 
Art. 3. Confession 151 



Art. 4. Questioning and Instructing Penitents . 162 

Art. 5. The Seal of Confession 167 

Art. 6. Sacramental Absolution 177 

Art. 7. Sacramental Satisfaction 183 

6. Extreme Unction 188 

7. Holy Orders 197 

8. Matrimony 201 

CH. III. The Sacramentals 212 


INDEX 225 









I. DEFINITION. The terms sin* transgres 
sion, 2 iniquity, 3 offense, 4 and disobedience, 5 are 
synonymously employed by Holy Scripture to 
designate a wilful transgression of the law of 
God, or voluntary disregard of His will. 

"What is sin," says St. Ambrose, "but an of 
fense against the divine law and disobedience to 
the heavenly precepts?" 6 St. Augustine, who 
employs the words "divine law" and "eternal law" 

1 Afj.apria, &fjLa.prr]fia. Rom. V, II, 2. Cfr. on the use of these 
13, 20; Eph. II, i; i John III, 4. terms K. Clemen, Die christliche 

2 napajScKns. Rom. II, 23 ; IV, Lehre von der Stinde, Vol. I, Got- 
15; V, 14; Heb. II, 2. tingen 1897, pp. 35 sqq. 

3 Avonta. Matth. VII, 23; Rom. 6 De Paradise, c. VIII, n. 39 
VI, 19; i John III, 4. <Migne, P. L., XIV, 292): "Quid 

4 napaTTTW/ia. Matth. VI, 14 est peccatum nisi praevaricatio legis 
sq.; Rom. V, 18; 2 Cor. V, 19; Eph. divini et caelestium inoboedientia 
II, i. fraeceptorum?" 

6 Hapa/coiJ. Rom. V, 19; fieb. 

2 SIN 

alternately, declares that : "A sin is some deed, 
word, or desire against the eternal law." 7 
Since all temporal laws are derived from, or con 
tained in, the lex aeterna, every sin manifestly 
involves a violation of the will of God. St. 
Thomas says: "Sin is nothing else than a bad 
human act. Now, that an act is a human act is 
due to its being voluntary. . . . Again, a human 
act is evil through lacking conformity with its 
due measure: and conformity of measure in a 
thing depends on a rule, from which no thing 
can depart without becoming incommensurate. 
Now there are two rules of the human will. One 
is proximate and homogeneous, viz., the human 
reason ; the other is the first rule, viz., the eternal 
law, which is God s reason, so to speak. Accord 
ingly Augustine includes two things in the defi 
nition of sin ; one pertaining to the substance of a 
human act, and which is the matter, so to speak, 
of sin, when he says, deed, word, or desire ; the 
other pertaining to the nature of evil, and which 
is, as it were, the form of sin, when he says, 
against the eternal law/ " 8 

7 Contra Faustum Manich., I. Habet autem actus humanus quod sit 
XXII, c. 27 (Migne, P. L. t XLII, malus ex eo quod caret debitd com- 
418): "Peccatum est factum vet mensuratione. Omnis autem corn- 
dictum vel concupitum aliquid contra mensuratio cuiuscunque ret at- 
aeternam legem." tenditur per comparationem ad 

8 Summa Theol., la, qu. 71, art. aliquam regulam; a qua si di- 
6: "Peccatum nihil aliud est quam vertat, incommensurata erit. Re- 
actus humanus malus. Quod au- gula autem voluntatis humanae est 
tern aliquis actus sit humanus, habet duplex: una propinqua et homogenea, 
ex hoc, quod est voluntarius. . . . scil. ipsa humana ratio; alia vero 


The definition given by St. Augustine and 
adopted by St. Thomas applies alike to actual sins 
(i. e., acts or omissions violating the moral law) 
and sinful habits (habitus peccaminosi) . 

2. CHARACTERISTICS. Sin, being a wilful 
transgression of the divine law, has the follow 
ing, partly positive and partly negative, notes or 
characteristics : 

a) Sin does not inhere in the nature of things, 
nor proceed from the Divine Essence or some 
other independent principle, but owes its exist 
ence entirely to free-will. "By the will," says St. 
Augustine, "a man sins or lives a good life." 9 
St. Thomas writes: "Sin consists essentially in 
an act of free choice, which is a function of the 
will and of reason." 10 And in another place: 
"A man s will alone is directly the cause of his 
sin." n 

Being an act of a created agent, sin is not a sub 
stance but merely an accident. It is not some- 

est prima regula, scil. lex aeterna, venture, Comment, in Sent., II, dist. 

quae est quasi ratio Dei. Et ideo 35, dub. 6 (Opera Omnia, Quaracchi 

Augustinus in definitione peccati 1885, Vol. II, p. 838). 

posuit duo: unum quod pertinet ad Retract., I, c. 9, n. 4: "Volun- 

substantiam actus humani, quod est tas est, qua et peccatur et recte vi- 

quasi materiale in peccato, quum vitur." (Migne, P. L., XXXII, 

dixit, dictum, i<el factum, vel concu- 596). 

pitum; aliud autem quod pertinet 10 Summa Theol., ia aae, qu. 77, 

ad rationcm mali, quod est quasi art. 6: "Peccatum essentialiter con- 

formale in peccato, quum dixit, con- sistit in actu liberi arbitrii, quod est 

tra legem aeternam. " Cfr. Schee- facultas voluntatis et rationis." 

ben, Dogmatik, Vol. II, pp. 522 sqq. 11 Summa Theol., ia 2ae, qu. 80, 

The various definitions of sin given art. i : "Sola voluntas hominis est 

by the Fathers and leading Scho- directe causa peccati eius." 
lastics will be found in St. Bona- 

4 SIN 

thing that is not (<>* ^), but something that ought 
not to exist (H ") In other words, it has no 
substance of its own, but is a privation or corrup 
tion of goodness (privatio boni) ; not, of course, 
a pure privation, but merely "an act deprived of 
its due order/ 12 "Evil," the Angelic Doctor 
says, ". . . is nothing else than a privation of 
that which a man is naturally apt to have and 
ought to have ; ... but a privation is not an es 
sence; it is a negation in a substance." 13 

Aristotle regarded sin as a necessary stage on 
the way to goodness, or as goodness itself in so 
far as it has not yet proceeded from potency to 
act, and consequently is a mere imperfection or 
minus bonum. 1 * This is a false view, for while 
it cannot be denied that both in the life of indi- 

12 Summa Theol., la 2ae, qu. 72, (P. L., XLII, 201). Cfr. Saint 
art. i, ad 2: "Peccatum non est Thomas, Summa Theol. , la, qu. 63, 
pura privatio, sed est actus debito art. i: "Peccare nihil est aliud 
ordine privatus." guam declinare a rectitudine actus, 

13 Summa contra Gentiles, III, c. quam debet habere, sive accipiatur 
7: "Malum . . . nihil est aliud peccatum in naturalibus sive in arti- 
quam privatio eius quod quis natus ficialibus sive in moralibus." 
est et debet habere. . . . Privatio IDEM, Summa Theol., la 2ae, qu. 21, 
autem non est aliqua essentia, sed art. i: "Peccatum proprie consistit 
est negatio in substantial Cfr. St. in actu, qui agitur propter finem ali- 
Augustine, De Civ. Dei, XI, c. 9: quern, quum non habet debitum ordi- 
"Mali nulla natura est, sed amissio nem ad finem ilium." Ibid., qu. 71, 
boni mali nomen accepit." (Migne, art. i : "Peccatum proprie nominal 
P. L., XLI, 325). Ibid., XII, c. 9 actum inordinatum, sicut actus vir- 
(P. L., XLI, 355). IDEM, Contra tutis est actus ordinatus et debitus." 
Epist. Manich. Fundam., c. 35, n. Cfr. J. Nirschl, Ursprung und 
30: "Quis dubitet to turn illud, quod Wesen des Bosen, Ratisbon 1854, 
dicitur malum, nihil esse aliud quam pp. 29 sqq. 

corruptionem? . . . Quodsi non in- 1* Aristotle, Metaphysica, 1. XIV, 

venitur in rebus malum nisi corrup- c. 4: TO KCLKOV avrb TO 

tio, et corruptio non est natura, dyaOov, 
nulla utique natura malum est," 


viduals and in the history of the human race evil 
sometimes appears as the inciting cause of good, 
it is equally true, and a matter of common ex 
perience, that such cases are the exception, not 
the rule, and consequently prove nothing with 
regard to the nature of evil. If an evil act acci 
dentally results in good, this is not imputable to 
man, but to God. Cfr. Gen. L, 20: "You 
thought evil against me, but God turned it into 
good, that he might exalt me ... and save 
many people." 15 

It would be a mistake, however, to conceive sin 
as a simple negation. If it were merely the lack 
or absence of good, sin would be a natural and 
necessary result of creatural limitation, and its 
real author would be God Himself. Deep down 
in his heart every man knows that sin is not the 
work of God but of man, and that it involves 
guilt. 16 

b) God cannot be the author of sin as such. 17 

15 Cfr. St. Augustine, Enchiridion, (Migne, P. L., XL, 276). IDEM, De 

c. 96: "Nee dubitandum est Deum Praedest. Sanctorum, c. 16, n. 33: 

facere bene etiam sinendo fieri, quae- "Est in malorum potestate peccare. 

cunque fiunt male. Non enim hoc Ut autem peccando hoc vel hoc ilia 

nisi iusto iudicio sinit, et profecto malitid faciant, non est in eorum 

bonum est omne, quod iustum est. potestate, sed Dei dizndentis tene- 

Quamvis ergo ea quae mala sunt, bras et ordinantis eas, ut hinc etiam 

inquantum mala sunt, non sint bona, quod faciunt contra voluntatem Dei, 

tamen ut non solum bona, sed etiam non impleatur nisi voluntas." (P. 

sint et mala, bonum est. Nam nisi L., XLIV, 984). 

esset hoc bonum, ut essent mala, IG Cfr. Psalm L, 5-6; Matth. 

nullo modo esse sinerentur ab omni- XXVII, 3-5. 

potente bono, cui procul dubio quam 17 Cfr. St. Augustine, De Ordine, 

facile est, quod vult facere, tarn facile II, c. 7, n. 23: "Malorum auc- 

est, quod non vult esse non sinere." torem Deum fateberis, quo sacri- 

6 SIN 

For, in the first place, sin is not a substance but 
merely a privation, and, secondly, Almighty 
God punishes the sinner. "God in no wise wills 
the evil of sin, which is the privation of right 
order towards the divine good," explains St. 
Thomas; "the evil of natural defect, or of pun 
ishment, He does will, by willing the good to 
which such evils are attached." 18 In other 
words, "God is the author of the evil which is pen 
alty, but not of the evil which is fault." 19 

Holy Scripture frequently refers to God as the 
Author of holiness, and the all-holy One who 
is free from sin and tempteth no man. 20 It 
seems hard to reconcile this truth with the many 
texts in which He is described as actively co 
operating in the sinful deeds of His creatures. 
Thus St. Paul says of the gentiles that, because 
they practiced idolatry, "God gave them up 
(Trape SeoKev) to the desires of their heart, unto un- 
cleanness, to dishonor their own bodies among 
themselves," and "delivered them up to shameful 

legio mi hi detestabilius nihil occur- quod privat ordinem ad bonum di- 

rit." (P. L., XXXII, 1005). vinum, Deus nullo modo vult. Sed 

IDEM, Enchiridion, c. 23, n. 8: malum naturalis defectus vel malum 

"Nequaquam dubitare debemus, re- poenae vult, volendo aliquod bonum, 

rum quae ad nos pertinent bonarum cui coniungitur tale malum." 

causam non esse nisi bonitatem Dei, 19 Ibid., qu. 49, art. 2: "Deus 

malarum vero ab immutabili bono est auctor mali, quod est poena, non 

deficientem boni mutabilis volunta- autem mali, quod est culpa." Cfr. 

tern." (P. L., XL, 244). Cfr. K. Scheeben, Dogmatik, Vol. II, pp. 569 

Clemen, Die christliche Lehre von sqq. ; Th. H. Simar, Die Theologie 

der Siinde, Vol. I, pp. 123 sqq. des hi. Paulus, Freiburg 1883, pp. 82 

18 St. Thomas, Summa Theol., la, sq. 

qu. 19, art. 9: "Malum culpae, 20 Lev. XI, 44; XIX, 2; Matth. 


affections, ... to a reprobate sense/ etc. 21 In 
another place he declares that the heathen, "hav 
ing their understanding darkened, . . . have 
given themselves up to lasciviousness." 22 The 
seeming contradiction cannot be solved by putting 
an arbitrary construction upon the sacred text. 
Being the first, universal, and immediate cause of 
all things and all operations, God works in every 
creature and has a share in every creatural act. 
Every ethical act performed by man has two 
causes God and free-will. Though these causes 
cooperate closely, they are essentially distinct in 
their nature as well as in the relation they respec 
tively bear to the act performed. Free-will is the 
efficient cause (causa efficient) of every ethical 
act as such. But sin is never an act of God. St. 
Paul speaks of God as cooperating, not in the 
sinful acts of the gentiles, but in punishing 
them. 23 

It would not be correct, even so, to describe the 
divine cooperation in the evil deeds of men as a 
mere permission or toleration. God works in all 
His creatures at all times, and no secondary cause, 
whether it be spiritual or material, can operate 
without His concurrence. Hence He not merely 
permits sin, but somehow positively cooperates in 
its commission (concur sus divinus). "God is 

V, 48; XIX, 17; Jas. I, 13; i Pet. 22 Eph. IV, 19; cfr. Acts VII, 42. 

I, 1 6. 23 Sib, dta TOVTO, Kal 

21 Rom. I, 24, 26, 28. 

8 SIN 

the cause of the act of sin," says St. Thomas; 
"yet He is not the cause of sin [as such], because 
He does not cause the act to have a defect." 24 
"God is the author of all that exists/ explains St. 
Augustine, "but He is not the author of evil, be 
cause all things are good in so far as they exist." 25 
Again: "Every nature, even that which is cor 
rupted, is good qua nature, and evil [only] in so 
far as it is corrupt." 26 God s contribution to a 
sinful act is in itself good. He merely enables 
man to employ the faculties which He has given 
him for a good purpose. It is man who renders 
the act evil by having a wrong intention. The 
Scholastics express this truth as follows : "Deus 
concurrit ad materiale, non ad formale pec 
cati/ The Tridentine Council condemns the 
assertion that "it is not in man s power to make 
his ways evil, but the works that are evil God 
worketh as well as those that are good, not per 
missibly only, but properly and of Himself, in 
such wise that the treason of Judas is no less His 
own proper work than the vocation of Paul." 2T 

24 St. Thomas, Summa Theol., la "Mali auctor non est [Deus], qui 
aae, qu. 79, art. 2: "Deus est causa omnium, quae sunt, auctor est; quia 
actus peccati; non tamen est causa inquantum sunt, intantum bona 
peccati, quia non est causa huius, sunt." (Migne, P. L. t XL, 16). 
quod actus sit cum defectu."^ 26 St. Augustine, Enchiridion, c. 
Ibid. (Sed contra): "Actus peccati 13: "Omnis natura, etiam vitiosa, 
est quidam motus liberi arbitrii. inquantum natura est, bona est; in- 
Sed voluntas Dei est causa omnium quantum vitiosa est, mala est," (P. 
motionum, ut Augustinus dicit (De L., XL, 16, 28). 

Trinit., Ill, c. 4 et p). Ergo vo- 27 Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, can. 

luntas Dei est causa actus peccati." 6: "Si quis dixerit, non esse in po- 

25 De Dwers. Quaest., 83, n. 21: testate hominis, vias suas malas fa- 


Besides, God often employs sin as a means of pun 
ishing the sinner and thus indirectly causes good 
to spring from evil. 28 

Against the teaching just propounded the following 
objection has been raised: "Some actions are evil and 
sinful in their species (secundum suam speciem). Now, 
that which is the cause of a thing, is also the cause of 
whatever belongs to that thing in respect of its species. 
If, therefore, God caused the act which is sinful, He would 
be the cause of sin." This fallacy is tersely refuted by 
St. Thomas as follows: "Acts and habits do not take 
their species from the privation itself, wherein the nature 
of evil consists, but from some object to which that pri 
vation is united; and so this defect, which we say is 
not from God, belongs to the species of the act as 
a consequence, and not as a specific difference." 29 In 
other words, God causes the act and its species, without 
causing the defect that renders it evil. 

Some theologians hold that God merely permits evil 

cere, sed mala opera, ita ut bona, 29 Summa Theol., la 2ae, qu. 79, 
Deum operari, non permissive so- art. 2, ad 3: "Videtur quod . . . 
lum, sed etiam proprie et per se, aliqui actus secundum suam speciem 
adeo ut sit proprium eius opus non sunt mali et peccata. . . . Sed quid- 
minus proditio ludae quam vocatio quid est causa alicuius, esi causa 
Pauli, anathema sit." eius, quod convenit ei secundum suam 
28 Cfr. Gen. XLV, 7 sq.; L, 20; speciem. Si ergo Deus esset causa 
Wisd. XI, 17; Matth. XIII, 29 sqq. actus peccati, sequeretur, quod esset 
St. Augustine, Enarr. in Ps., 54, causa peccati. . . . Actus et habitus 
n. 4: "Ne putetis gratis esse malos non recipiunt speciem ex ipsa priva- 
in hoc mundo et nihil boni de illis tione, in qua consistit ratio mali, 
agere Deum. Omnis malus out ideo sed ex aliquo defectu, cui coniungi- 
vivit, ut corrigatur, out ideo vivit, tur talis privatio. Et sic ipse de- 
ut per ilium bonus exerceatur." fectus, qui dicitur non esse a Deo, 
(Migne, P. L., XXXVI, 630). pertinet ad speciem actus consequen- 
IDEM, Enchiridion, c. 27: "Melius ter, et non quasi differentia speci- 
[Deus] iudicavit de malis bene fa- fica." Cfr. J. Mausbach, Die Ethik 
cere, quam mala nulla esse permit- des hi. Augustinus, Vol. II, pp. 74 
tere." (P. L., XL, 245). sqq. 

io SIN 

but never cooperates in its production. This view cannot 
be squared with the Tridentine decision quoted above, 
which refers to His action in the production of evil as 
" permissive operari." 30 

c) Sin, being inspired by opposition to the will 
of God, who is the Supreme Lawgiver and benevo 
lent Father of His creatures, is an act of dis 
obedience and ingratitude. 31 As an act of disobe 
dience it is called an offense (offensa Dei, often- 

But if God is absolutely perfect and incapable 
of suffering, how is it possible to offend Him and 
provoke His anger, 32 especially since the sinner 
commonly lacks the animus iniuriandi, i. e., the 
deliberate intention of offending? That this is 
so may be admitted; yet the (metaphorical) desig 
nation of sin as an offense against God corre 
sponds so well with its nature and with our limited 
human conception of Him, that it must be ac 
cepted as substantially correct. 33 

Being an act of disobedience to the will of God and a 
denial of the moral order, sin is necessarily op 
posed to the sinner s own welfare, nay to his very nature. 
Instead of the beatitude for which he was created, and 
towards which his nature as well as the will of His Maker 
compel him to tend, the sinner seeks his happiness in him- 

30 V. supra, p. 8, n. 27. Vom Zorn Gottes, Gottingen 1909. 

31 Deut. XXXII, 6; Is. I, 2-4; 33 Cfr. B. Dorholt, Die Lehre von 
Jer. II, 32; V, 21-25. der Genugtuung Christi, Paderborn 

82 Cfr. Ps. V, 5 sqq.; X, 4; 1891, pp. 269 sqq. 
LXXVII, 17. Cfr. M. Pohlenz, 


self and other creatures. Hence every sin springs from 
inordinate self-love 34 and must result in shame, discon 
tent, unhappiness, and spiritual suicide. 35 The common 
sense of mankind has embodied this truth in many prov 
erbs, e. g., "Every sinner is his own executioner," "Sin is 
its own punishment," "It does not pay to be wicked," etc. 

3. ORIGIN. For an explanation of the origin 
of sin we must turn to Revelation. 

a) The first sin, the deliberate rebellion of 
Lucifer and his angels against the will of God 36 
was purely spiritual. As these angels were 
pure spirits, the decision they made was irrevoca 
ble, and their punishment will last forever. Man 
also sinned, but his fall was not due to malice. 
He was seduced by the devil, the prince or god of 
this world, 37 who is not yet fully subdued, but 
continues to work havoc in the "children of 
unbelief." 38 

Man s sin, therefore, differs from the sin of 
the fallen angels in several respects: (i) It is 
not purely spiritual, but partly carnal, and hence 
the result, not of pure malice, but of malice and 
infirmity combined. (2) In man sin proceeds 

84 St. Thomas, Summa Theol, ta Lateran. IV (a. 1215), c. i: "Dia- 

2ae, qu. 77, art. 4: "Inordinatus bolus et alii daemones a Deo quidem 

amor sui est causa omnis peccati." natura creati sunt boni, sed ipsi 

35 Cfr. Gen. Ill, 5, 10; Jer. II, per se facti sunt mali. Homo vero 
13; Tob. XII, 10 ; Prov. VIII, 36. diaboli suggestione peccavit." (Den- 

36 Cfr. Matth. XXV, 41; Luke X, zinger-Bannwart, n. 428). 

18; Apoc. XII, 7-9- 38 Wisd. II, 24 sq.; John VIII, 

37 John XII, 31; XIV, 30; XVI, 44; Eph. II, i sq.; VI, 12; I John 
ii ; 2 Cor. IV, 3 sq. Cfr. Cone. Ill, 8. 

12 SIN 

not merely from a momentary decision of the will, 
as in the case of the fallen angels, but likewise 
from original sin, which is a cooperating factor 
in every personal transgression. For this rea 
son sin in man is not punished by death but is 
pardonable. True, man cannot redeem himself, 
but he can be redeemed. 39 Aside from the state 
of final impenitence, moreover, the soul of the 
human sinner is not utterly dead, but capable of 
being revived. In the majority of cases sin, to 
employ an Augustinian phrase, is "not nature, 
but against nature," 40 and even the most griev 
ous offender still remains an object of compas 
sion in the eyes of God, who, while He hates sin, 
desires that the sinner be converted and live. 41 

It is a characteristic fact of no small impor 
tance in judging the malice of sin that man was 
named after the lower or mortal side of his na 
ture. Holy Scripture says : "As a father hath 
compassion on his children, so hath the Lord com 
passion on them that fear him: for he knoweth 
our frame/ 7 42 

39 Matth. I, 21 ; Acts XVII, 22-31; 42 Ps. CII, 13 sq. Cfr. Gen. V, 2; 
Rom. V, 12; Gal. I, 4; cfr. Jas. I, Ps. LXXVII, 38 sq.; Is. LXIV, 8 
14. sq. St. Ambrose, De Noe et Area, 

40 St. Augustine, Contra Epist. c. 4, n. g: "Homo positus in terrae 
Manich. Fundam., c. 35, n. 39: regione carnem portans sine peccato 
"Videre iam facile est, [malum] non esse non potest, terra enim velut 
esse naturam, sed contra naturam." quidam tentationum locus est caro- 
(Migne, P. L., XLII, 201). que corruptelae illecebra." (Migne, 

41 Cfr. Ez. XVIII, 32; XXXI, n; P. L., XIV, 366). Cfr. the major 
Wisd. XI, 24 sq. ; Matth. V, 45; 2 antiphon for Dec. 22 in the Roman 
Pet. Ill, 9. Breviary: "O rex gentium et desi- 


Theologians are at variance with regard to the nature 
of the sin committed by the fallen angels and that of 
our first parents. 43 The crime of the angels probably was 
pride. Some rationalists hold that Adam and Eve died 
because the fruit of the tree of which they ate was pois 
onous. This theory is as untenable as that the first human 
sin was an act of fornication. 44 

The question why God did not prevent the sin of our 
first parents, is answered by St. Augustine as follows: 
"God did not lack the power of creating man so that 
he could not sin, but chose to make him so that he could 
sin if he wished, or abstain from sin if he preferred, by 
forbidding this and prescribing that; thus it was first a 
merit not to sin, and later a just reward not to be able to 
sin." 45 

b) To understand the nature and gravity of 
sin, we must remember that the disobedience of 
our first parents was a very grievous, nay, in some 
respects the most grievous offense a human being 
could commit. And this for two reasons : 

) Adam and Eve sinned in spite of the ex 
traordinary natural and supernatural privileges 
which they enjoyed; 

0) Their disobedience was an act of flagrant 

deratus earunt lapisque angularis, qui 45 De Continentia, c. VI, n. 16: 

fads utraque unum: veni et salva "Non potestas Deo defuit, talem 

hominem, quern de limo formasti." facere hominem, qui peccare non 

43 Cfr. Scheeben, Dogmatik, Vol. posset, sed maluit eum talem facere, 
II, pp. 578 sqq., 593 sqq.; Pesch, cui adiaceret peccare, si vellet, non 
Praelectiones Dogmaticae, Vol. Ill, peccare, si nollet, hoc prohibens, il- 
3rd ed., pp. 220 sqq.; A. Schopfer, lud praecipiens, ut prius illi [Adae] 
Geschichte des Alien Testamentes, esset bonum meritum non peccare, et 
pp. 47 sqq.; Pohle-Preus, God the postea iustum praemium non posse 
Author of Nature, p. 342. peccare." (Migne, P. L., XL, 359)- 

44 Cfr. 2 Cor. XI, 3. 

I 4 SIN 

ingratitude and formal contempt, committed 
with the full knowledge that it would injure not 
only themselves but all their descendants. 46 

Moreover, Christ became man and suffered and 
died because of sin. 47 

Again, men continue to sin, though their intel 
lect is enlightened by revelation and their will 
strengthened by grace, and in spite of the incom 
prehensible love shown in the atonement. 48 

Every serious transgression of the divine law, 
i. e., every actual mortal sin, deserves temporal 
and eternal death and delivers the sinner into the 
bondage of Satan. 49 But not every transgres 
sion of the law is mortally sinful. There are 
slight offenses, called "levia et quotidiana, quae 
etiam venialia dicuntur peccata" by the Triden- 
tine Council, and these do not destroy sanctifying 
grace. 50 

It is to the important distinction between mor 
tal and venial sin that we must now turn our at 

READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, la 2ae, qu. 71-89. 
Suarez, Tractatus de Vitiis et Peccatis, disp. 1-6 (Opera Omnia, 
Vol. IV, pp. 515 sqq.). J. Miiller, Die christliche Lehre von der 

46Cfr. St. Augustine, De Civ. 48 John III, 16; XV, 13; Eph. I, 

Dei, XXIV, c. 15, n. i; Enchiridion, 3-14; HI, 16-19; i John III, 16; 

c. 27, 45, 48; De Corrept. et Gratia, IV, 9. Cfr. St. Thomas, Summa 

C. 12, n. 35. St. Bonaventure, Com. Theol., 2a 2ae, qu. 14, art. 2. 

ment. in Sent., II, dist. 21, art. 3, 49 Gen. II, 17; Rom. VI, 23; Jas. 

qu. i and 2. I, IS- 

47 Cfr. Matth. I, 21; Mark X, 45; 50 Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, c. n. 

John III, 16 sq.; Rom. V, 8 sqq.; Cfr. Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 6, qu. 14. 
a Cor. V, 15; Eph. I, 7. 


Sunde, 6th ed., 2 vols., Stuttgart 1877-78. M. Merkle, Das Wesen 
des Bosen, Dillingen 1847. F. Teipel, De Peccati Natura, Coes- 
feld 1847, pp. 10 sqq. J. Nirschl, Ursprung und Wesen des 
Bosen, Ratisbon 1854, pp. 23 sqq. K. Clemen, Die christliche 
Lehre von der Sunde, Vol. I, Gottingen 1897, PP- 20 sqq. C. 
Manzoni, De Natura Peccati, S. Angeli Laud., 1800. J. B. Pighi, 
Commentarius de ludicio Sacramentali, 3rd ed., Verona 1004, pp. 
97 sqq. E. Janvier, Exposition de la Morale Catholique, Vol. V, 
Paris 1907. M. J. Scheeben, Dogmatik, Freiburg 1873, Vol. II, pp. 
515 sqq. Chr. Pesch, S.J., Praelectiones Dogmaticae, Vol. IX, 
2nd ed., pp. 295 sqq. Pohle-Preuss, God the Author of Nature 
and the Supernatural, 2nd ed., St. Louis 1916, pp. 232 sqq. A. C. 
O Neil, O.P., art. "Sin," in the Cath. Encyclopedia, Vol. XIV, pp. 
4 sqq. Card. Manning, Sin and Its Consequences, Am. reprint, 
New York 1904. A. B. Sharpe, Evil, Its Nature and Cause, LorL~ 
don 1906. Card. Billot, De Natura et Ratione Peccati Personalis, 
Rome 1900. Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of Moral Theology, 
Vol. I, pp. 133 sqq. Wilhelm-Scannell, A Manual of Catholic 
Theology, Vol. IT, 2nd ed., London 1901, pp. 3 sqq. H. Noldin, 
S.J., Summa Theologiae Moralis, Vol. I, pp. 320 sqq., nth ed., 
Innsbruck 1914. Aug. Lehmkuhl, S.J., Theologia Moralis, nth 
ed., Freiburg 1910, Vol. I, pp. 186 sqq. Ad. Tanquerey, Syno 
psis Theologiae Moralus et Pastoralis, Vol. II, Paris 1905, pp. 239 
sqq. Al. Sabetti, S.J. (ed. T. Barrett, S.J.), Compendium Theo 
logiae Moralis, 22nd ed., New York 1915, pp. in sqq. Thos. 
Slater, S.J., The Foundation of True Morality, N. Y. 1920, pp. 
65 sqq. A. Vermeersch, S.J., Theol. Mor., Vol. I, pp. 391 sqq. 
L. J. Nau, Readings on Fundamental Moral Theology, N. Y. and 
Cincinnati 1926, pp. 26-35. 



distinction between mortal and venial sins is of 
great practical importance, especially for the 
tribunal of Penance, where the sinner is obliged 
to state the kind and number of his mortal trans 
gressions, which constitute materia necessaria 
for the validity of the Sacrament. Venial sins, 
on the other hand, are materia libera, i. e., they 
need not be confessed, though to confess them 
is useful and advisable. 1 

The teaching of the Church with regard to the dis 
tinction between mortal and venial sins is clear and defi 
nite. Nevertheless, the scientific demonstration of this 
doctrine is one of the most difficult problems of Moral 
Theology and has given rise to many heated controversies 
(e. g., Kleutgen vs. Hirscher; Frick vs. Linsenmann; 
Pesch vs. Schell, etc.) 

TION, AND REASON. The distinction between 
mortal and venial sins has a solid basis in Sacred 
Scripture and ecclesiastical Tradition. 

l Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De Poenit., cap. 5 and can. 7; 
Sess. VI, cap. u. 



i. Sacred Scripture distinguishes between sins 
of greater or less gravity in such passages as: 
"Whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be 
in danger of judgment; and whosoever shall say 
to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the 
council ; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall 
be in danger of hell fire;" 2 in the parables of the 
moat and the beam, 3 of the king who took account 
of his servants, 4 in the similitude of the blind 
guides who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel, 5 
and so forth. The Bible moreover expressly 
mentions sins that are "worthy of death," 6 the 
doers of which "shall not possess the kingdom of 
God;" 7 sins "that beget death," 8 and others that 
are regularly committed by all men, even the just. 9 
Comparing the texts one cannot but see that there 
is a difference, not only of quantity or degree, but 
likewise of quality or essence, between different 
sins (differentia in ipsa ratione peccati). Mortal 
sin robs man of sanctifying grace, destroys the 
supernatural life of the soul, and entails eternal 
damnation; whereas venial sin merely weakens 
grace and diminishes that love which is poured 
out in the heart by the Holy Ghost. 

We have purposely refrained from citing in support 

2Matth. V, 22. Cfr. Matth. X, 6 Rom. I, 32; cfr. Ex. XXXII, 30 

15; XI, 22; XVI, 10 ; John XIX, 11. sq.; i John V, 16. 

3 Matth. VII, 3 sqq. T i Cor. VI, 9 sq.; Gal. V, 19 sqq. 

4 Matth. XVIII, 23 sqq. 8 Jas. I, 13 sqq. 

5 Matth. XXIII, 24. 9 Jas. Ill, 2; i John I, 8. 

i8 SIN 

of our thesis the oft-quoted text, "A just man shall fall 
seven times and shall rise again;" for, as St. Augustine 
pointed out many centuries ago, there is question here not 
of sins but of misfortunes. 10 

In I John V, 16 "sin unto death" is probably not ordi 
nary mortal sin but that which is technically known as 
the sin against the Holy Ghost. 11 

The scriptural locus classicus for our thesis is I Cor. 
Ill, 8 sqq., in which the difference between mortal and 
venial sin is developed very graphically and with a deep 
insight into human nature. This text was made much of 
by the Scholastics. 12 

2. Ecclesiastical Tradition furnishes a long and 
uninterrupted series of testimonies in support of 
the distinction with which we are dealing. 

The ancient penitential discipline distinguished 
between unpardonable and pardonable sins, 13 and 
among the latter classed some as more grievous 
than others. 

St. Augustine draws a sharp line between 
"magna crimina" and unavoidable " quotidiana 
peccata" which, he says, are wiped out by the 
Lord s Prayer. 1 


lOProv. XXIV, 16. Cfr. St. Au- cateurs, 2nd ed., Paris 1906, pp. 102 

gustine, De Civ. Dei, XI, c. 31: sq. 

"Septies cadit iustus et resurget, id n Cfr. A. Zahn, De Notione Pec- 

est, quotiescunque ceciderit, non per- call, Halle 1872, pp. 13, 28, 51. 

ibit. Quod non de iniquitatibus, 12 Cfr. St. Thomas, Summa 

sed de tribulationibus ad humilita- TheoL, la 2ae, qu. 89, art. 2; Schee- 

tem perducentibus intellegi voluit." ben, Dogmatik, Vol. II, p. 530. 

(Migne, P. L., XLI, 345). Cfr. 18 Matth. XII, 31 sq.; John XX, 

Enarr. in Ps., 118, s. 31, n. 4 (P. L., 22 sq. 

XXXVII, 1529). J. V. Bainvel, 14 St. Augustine, Contra lul., II, 

Les Contresens Bibliques des Predi- c. 10, n. 33: "In hoc bello [cum 


The Catholic Church has constantly insisted on 
this important distinction and defended it against 
heretics. 15 

3. Everyday experience as well as the common 
sense of mankind and enlightened reason confirm 
the distinction between mortal and venial sins. 

concupiscentia] laborantes, quamdiu 
tentatio est vita humana super ter- 
ram, non ideo sine peccato non su- 
tnus, quia hoc, quod eo modo pecca- 
tvm dicitur, operatur in membris 
repugnans legi mentis, etiam non sibi 
ad illicita consentientibus nobis, 
. . . sed in quibus ab illo rebellante, 
etsi non letaliter, sed venialiter ta- 
tnen vincimur, in his contrahimus 
unde quotidie dicamus: Dimitte no 
bis debita nostra." (Migne, P. L., 
XLIV, 6g6).Enchir., c. 71: "De 
quotidianis brevibus levibusque pec- 
catis, sine quibus haec -vita non du- 
citur, quotidiana fidelium oratio sat- 
isfit. . . . Delet omnino haec oratio 
minima et quotidiana peccata." 
(P. L., XL, 265). Tr. in loann., 
26, n. ii : "Peccata etsi sunt 
quotidiana, vel non sint mortifera." 
(P. L., XXXV, 1611). De Symb., 
c. 7, n. 15: "Non vobis dico, quia 
sine peccato hie vivetis, sed sunt 
renialia, sine quibus vita ista non 
est. Propter omnia peccata baptis- 
mus inventus est; propter levia, sine 
quibus esse non possumus, oratio in- 
venta. Quid habet oratio f . . . 
Semel abluimur baptismate, quotidie 
abluimur orations. Sed nolite ilia 
committere, pro quibus necesse est, 
ut a Christi corpore separemini, quod 
absit a vobis. Illi enim, quod videtis 
agere poenitentiam, scelera commi- 
serunt, out adulteria out aliqua facia 
immania: inde agunt poenitentiam. 
Nam si levia peccata ipsorum essent, 
ad haec quotidiana oratio delenda 
sufficeret. * (P. L., XL, 636). 

Serm., 58, c. 7, n. 8: "Sine debitis 
in hac terra vivere non potestis. 
Sed alia sunt ilia tnagna crimina, 
quae vobis bonum est in baptismo 
dimitti et a quibus semper alieni 
esse debetis, alia quotidiana peccata, 
sine quibus hie homo vivere non 
potest, propter quae necessaria est 
quotidiana oratio." (Migne, P. L. t 
XXXVIII, 397). With regard to 
venial or daily sins, St. Augustine 
calls the Lord s Prayer "quotidiana 
nostra mundatio" (De Nupt, et 
Coniug., I, c. 33, n. 38), "quo- 
tidiana mundatio sanctae orationis" 
(Serm., 56, c. 8, n. 12), and "quasi 
quotidianus baptismus nosier" 
(Serm., 213, c. 8). On the Patris 
tic literature regarding this ques 
tion see Gerigk, Wesen und Voraus- 
setzungen der Todsunde, Breslau 
1903, PP- I? sqq. 

15 Cf r. Cone. Milev. II, can. 6-8 : 
"Sanctos in oratione dominica non 
tantum humiliter, sed etiam veraci- 
ter dicer e: Dimitte nobis debita no 
stra." (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 106 
sqq.). Among the condemned prop 
ositions of Baius is the following 
(n. 20) : "Nullum est peccatum ex 
natura sua veniale, sed onine pecca 
tum meretur poenam acternam." 
(Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 1020). 
Cfr. Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, c. n; 
c. 15; can. 23 and 27; Sess. VII, De 
Bapt., can. 10. On Luther s teach 
ing that all sins are by nature 
mortal, see H. Denifle, Luther und 
Luthertum, Vol. I, 2nd ed., pp. 501 

20 SIN 

As there is a state of spiritual death and moral 
infirmity, so there are external and internal acts 
that produce death and infirmity; and as there is 
a moral order which can be either grievously or 
slightly violated, so there are grievous and slight 
offenses against that order. 15 "Could anything 
be more absurd or foolish," asks St. Augustine, 
"than to consider one who has indulged in im 
moderate hilarity guilty of as great a sin as 
the wretch who has brought ruin upon his na 
tive land?" 17 "If two acts are equal because 
they are both offenses," he continues, "then mice 
and elephants are equal because they are both 
animals, and flies and eagles are equal because 
they can fly through the air." 18 

"Not only Scripture, but mankind in general," says a 
recent moralist, "recognize the fact that there are sins 
which by their nature do not involve a real lapse from 
morality, and which do not render the agent bad and 
worthless, but are committed even by just and pious men. 

16 Cfr. Prov. VI, 30 sqq. St. Je- tius incenderit, peccasse iudicentur 
rome, Adv. lovin., II, c. 30: "Sunt aequaliterf" 

peccata levia, stint gravia. AHud 18 Ibid., n. 14: "Aut si prop- 

est decent millia talenta debere, terea sunt paria, quia utraque delicta 

aliud quadrantem. Et de otioso sunt, mures et elephanti pares erunt, 

quidem verbo et adulterio rei tene- quia utraque sunt ammalia, tnuscae 

bimur, sed non est idem suffundi et et aquilae, quia utraque volatilia." 

torqueri, erubescere et longo tempore (Migne, P. L., XXXIII, 394). Cfr. 

cruciari." (Migne, P. L., XXIII, Horace s Satires, I, 3, 96 sqq.: 

3 2 7)- "Quis paria esse fere placuit pec- 

17 St. Augustine, Epist., 104 (a/. cata, laborant, 

254), c. 4, n. 13: "Quid absurdius, Quum ventum ad verum est: sensus 

quid insanius did potest, quam ut moresque repugnant 

ille, qui aliquando immoderatius Atque ipsa utilitas, iusti prope mater 

riserit et ille, qui patriatn truculen- et aequi." 



. . . That there is an essential difference between an 
offense against courtesy and battery and assault for the 
purpose of robbery, between a falsehood told in jest and 
a slander affecting a man s honor, every reasonable per 
son perceives." 19 

The truth expressed by St. James .that "in many things 
we all offend," 20 was perceived long before the Apostle s 
day by Thucydides 21 and others. 

4. SPECULATIVE ARGUMENT. To demonstrate 
the distinction between mortal and venial sin spec- 
ulatively was first attempted by the Schoolmen, 
especially by SS. Thomas 22 and Bonaventure, 23 

19 J. Mausbach, Die kath. Moral, 
2nd ed., p. no; English transla 
tion by Buchanan, pp. 259 sq. We 
have modified the English version 
somewhat in order to render the 
sense of the original more accu 

20jas. Ill, 2: "JloXXa yap 
irraiofAev aTravres In multis enim 
oifendimus omnes." 

21 Hist, III, 45: ire<t>vKa<ru> 
airavres /ecu idia Kal 8f]^oaLa 
afji.apTa.veiv- Cfr. Seneca, De 
Clement., I, 6: "Peccamus omnes, 
alii grai ia, alii leviora." 

22 St. Thomas, Summa Theol., la 
2ae, qu. 72, art. 5: "Differentia 
peccati venialis et mortalis consequi- 
tur diver sit at em inordinationis, quae 
complet rationem peccati. Duplex 
enim est inordinatio: una per sub- 
tractionem principii ordinis; alia, 
qua etiam salvato principio ordinis, 
fit inordinatio circa ea, quae sunt 
post principium; sicut in corpore 
animalis quandoque quidem inor 
dinatio complexionis procedit usque 
ad destructionem principii vitalis, 
et haec est mors; quandoque vero 
salvo principio vitae -fit deordi 

natio quaedam in humoribus, et tune 
est aegritudo. Principium autem to- 
tius ordinis in moralibus est finis 
ultimus, qui ita se habet in opera- 
tivis, sicut principium indemonstra- 
bile in speculativis. Unde quando 
anima deordinatur per peccatum us 
que ad aversionem ab ultimo fine, 
scilicet Deo, cui unitur per carita- 
tem, tune est peccatum mortale ; 
quando vero fit deordinatio citra 
aversionem a Deo, tune est peccatum 
veniale. Sicut enim in corporibus 
deordinatio mortis, quae est per re- 
motionem principii vitae, est irre- 
parabilis secundum naturam, inor 
dinatio autem aegritudinis reparari 
potest propter id, quod salvatur prin 
cipium vitae, similiter est in his, 
quae pertinent ad animam." 

23 St. Bonaventure, Brevil., P. 
V, c. 8: "Quum peccatum dicat 
recessum voluntatis a primo princi 
pio, inquantum ipsa voluntas nata 
est agi ab ipso et secundum ipsum 
et propter ipsum, omne peccatum est 
inordinatio mentis sive I oluntatis, 
circa qitam nata sunt esse virtus et 
vitium. Peccatum tgitur actuate est 
actualis inordinatio voluntatis. In- 

22 SIN 

who emphasize the fact that sin is essentially a 
turning away from God, due to a wrong tendency 
of the will. 

a) "When/ says St. Thomas (/. c.), "the soul 
is so disordered by sin as to turn away from its 
last end, God, to whom it is united by charity, 
there is mortal sin; but when the disorder stops 
short of turning away from God, the sin is venial. 
For as in animal bodies the disorder of death, 
which results from the destruction of the prin 
ciple of life, is irreparable in nature, whereas the 
disorder of sickness can be repaired, because the 
vital principle is preserved, so it is in matters con 
cerning the soul. For in speculative matters he 
who errs in first principles is beyond the reach 
of persuasion, whereas one who errs but retains 
the first principles, may be brought back to the 
truth by the aid of those same principles. And 
so in matters of conduct, he who by sinning turns 
away from his last end, suffers a fall that is, so 
far as the nature of the sin goes, beyond repair, 
and exposes himself to eternal punishment. But 
he whose sin stops short of turning away from 
God, is under a disorder that by the very nature 
of the sin admits of repair; and therefore he is 
said to sin venially, because he does not sin so 
as to deserve never-ending punishment." 

ordinatio autetn ista out est tanta, tale, quia natum est auferre vitam 
quod ordinent iustitiae exterminat, separando ipsam a Deo, per quern 
et hoc modo dicitur peccatum mor- vivificatur anima lusta. Aut est tarn 


Hence the customary definition: "A mortal 
sin is a turning away (aversio) from God and a 
turning to (conversio) creatures with a chknge of 
object/ When the (final) object remains un 
changed, there is only venial sin. 24 

Mortal sin, therefore, is a complete turning 
from God to the creature, whereby the crea 
ture becomes man s last end and the object 
of his affection. Such an act necessarily de 
stroys the proper relation between God and 
man, and consequently robs the soul of super 
natural life. Man is ordained towards his last 
end by charity, and whatever runs counter to 
charity (conceived either as the love of God or the 
love of one s fellow-men for God s sake) is mor 
tally sinful. All such offenses are mortal sins 
according to their species (pec cat a mart alia ex 
suo genere). When the will is directed towards 
an object that is not contrary to charity, though it 
contain within itself some disorder (inordinatio 
quaedam ), the sin committed is venial according 
to- its species (peccatum veniale ex suo genere). 

Since, however, human acts receive their speci 
fication not only from their objects, but likewise 
from the end or purpose of the agent, a sin 

modica, quod ordinem ilium non inimicitiam divinam incurrit homo." 

perimit, sed tantum in aliquo per- 24 "Peccatum mortale est aversio 

turbat, et tune dicitur veniale pec- a Deo et conversio ad creatures cum 

catum, quia de ipso adipisci possu- mutatione centri; ubi vero centrum 

mus cito veniam, pro eo, quod non mutatur, adest peccatum ve- 

gratia non tollitur per ipsum nee niale." (St. Thomas, /. c.) 

24 SIN 

which is by nature venial, so far as its object 
is concerned, may become mortal in respect of the 
person who commits it, either because he inordi 
nately seeks his last end in that object, or because 
he directs the object towards an end which is by 
nature mortally sinful ; as when one employs a 
useless word for the commission of a grievous 
crime. Similarly, a sin which is by nature mortal 
may become subjectively venial if the act remains 
incomplete, because there is no full advertence and 
consent; as when one is tempted against the 

To be mortal, therefore, a sin need not be committed 
"with uplifted hand against God," as Schell was accused 
of having taught, i. e., it need not be inspired by hatred 
and malice or involve formal rebellion against the Al 
mighty. Nor need it be an act of obstinate and impeni 
tent opposition to divine truth and grace. The Church 
would not have drawn up a long list of mortal sins 25 if 
she believed that there is but one mortal sin, namely, re 
bellion or obstinate resistance to the will of God. 26 

25 Cfr. Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, the divine law in an important mat- 
c. 15; Prop, damnat. ab Alexandra ter is a mortal sin. On the con- 
VII., n. 23; sub Innocent. XL, 43, trary, I accept this definition: only 
44, 47, 49, 51 sq. (Denzinger- it falls short of determining what 
Bannwart, n. 1123, 1193 sq., 1197, is important or unimportant in each 
1201 sq.) case. . . . Were I asked to define 

26 Cfr. F. A. Gopfert, Moraltheo- the nature of mortal sin, I should 
logie, 6th ed., Vol. I, p. 219. It is say it was a voluntary or wilful 
but just to add that Dr. Schell pro- transgression of a divine law in 
tested against the construction put an important matter." (H. Schell, 
upon his teaching by his opponents. Kleinere Schriften, edited by K. 
"I have never denied," he says, H ennemann, Paderborn 1908, pp. 
"that every wilful transgression of 580, 587.) 


b) The fact that every sin implies a disturb 
ance of the moral order does not suffice to estab 
lish an essential distinction between mortal and 
venial sins. For this distinction is not (or, at 
least, not entirely) based on the objective 
consequences of sin (materia gravis et levis}, 
i. e., the greater or less degree in which the 
moral order is disturbed, but primarily on the sub 
jective tendency of the will. "The external ob 
ject/ says a modern theologian, "is merely the 
proximate aim and motive. The ultimate cause 
of sin is the ego, the gratification of self-love, 
that inordinate seeking of one s own interest 
which is directly opposed to the love of God. 
This is true of all sins, even of those whose object 
lies outside the sinner s own person (infidelity, 
despair, presumption)." 27 

Hence, broadly speaking, it may be said that 
whatever is done out of malice is mortally sinful, 
whereas that which has infirmity for its motive is 
merely a venial sin, though, strictly speaking, 
there are sins of malice that are venial and sins 
of infirmity that are mortal. No man is able to 
fathom the secret motives of his fellow-men, and 
consequently God alone can tell with absolute cer 
tainty how much malice has gone into any sin. 28 

27 H. Gerigk, Wesen und Vor- eventu, sed vitils hominum metienda 

aussetzungen der Todsiinde, p. 116. sunt." 

Cfr. Cicero, Parad., Ill, i: 28 Cfr. Jer. XVII, 10; i Cor. IV, 

"Parva, inquis, res est; at magna 4; 2 Thess. II, 7; Deut. XVII, 8. 
culpp. Nee enin* peccata rerutn 



St. Augustine says : "Which sins are venial and 
which are mortal can be ascertained only from 
Sacred Scripture, not from human wisdom." 29 
And St. Thomas : "It is perilous to decide as to 
the grievous character of a sin unless we have a 
positive teaching to go by." 30 St. Raymond of 
Pennafort, whom the Church honors as "the emi 
nent minister of the Sacrament of Penance," ad 
vises confessors to go slow in deciding any sin 
to be grievous, lest they discourage their peni 
tents. 31 

A conscientious Catholic will strive to avoid 
all sins, venial as well as mortal. 32 

29 Enchiridion, c. 78 : "Quae sint 
levin, quae gravia peccata, non hu- 
vnano, sed divino sunt pensanda iudi- 
cio." (Migne, P. L., XL, 269). 
Cfr. ibid., c. 79: "Sunt quaedam, 
quae levissima putarentur, nisi in 
Scripturis demonstrarentur opinione 
gravia." (P. L., XL, 270). IDEM, 
De Civ. Dei, XXI, c. 27, n. 5: 
"Quae sint ipsa peccata, quae ita im- 
pediunt perventionem ad regnum 
Dei, ut tamen sanctorum meritis 
impetrent indulgentiam, diflicillimum 
est invenire, periculosissimum defi- 
nire. Ego certe usque ad hoc tern- 
pus, quum inde satagerem, ad eorum 
indaginem pervenire non potui." (P. 
L., XLI, 750). The reason why God 
left this question unsolved, St. Au 
gustine finds in the salutary admo 
nition to avoid all sins: "Et for- 
tassis propterea latent, ne studium 
proficiendi ad omnia peccata cavenda 
pigrescat. . . . Nunc vero dum 
venialis iniquitas, etiamsi perseveret, 
ignoratur modus, profecto et studium 
in mcliora proficiendi orationi in- 

stando vigilantius adhibetur." 

30 Quodlibet., IX, art. 15: 
"Omnis quaestio, in qua de peccato 
mortali quaeritur, nisi expressa 
veritas habeatur, periculose deter- 
minatur." Cfr. J. Gerson, De Vita 
Spirit., lect. 4: "Doctores theologi 
non debent esse faciles ad asseren- 
dum, aliqua peccata esse mortalia, ubi 
non sunt certissimi de re, nam per 
huiusmodi assertiones rigidas in re 
bus universis nequaquam eriguntur 
homines a luto peccatorum, sed in 
illud profundius, quia desperatius, 

31 "Unum consulo, quod non sis 
nimis pronus iudicare mortalia pec 
cata, ubi tibi non constat per cer- 
tam scripturam, . . . alias possent 
induci homines in desperationem." 
(L. 3, tit. de Poenit. et Rem., 21.) 
Cfr. St. Alphonsus, Homo Apost., 
tr. 1 6, n. 118; J. E. Pruner, Moral- 
theologie, Vol. I, 3rd ed., p. 189. 

32 Cfr. St. Augustine, De Bapt., 
II, c. 6, n. 9: "Non afferamus 


Mortal sin, therefore, is a wilful transgression of the 
law of God in a matter which one knows or believes to be 
important. It robs man of sanctifying grace, deprives 
him of the friendship of God, and renders him deserving 
of eternal damnation. 

Venial sin, on the other hand, is either a violation of 
an important law without full advertence or consent, or 
a transgression of a law of slight importance. 33 Venial 
sin does not destroy sanctifying grace and is more easily 
pardoned than mortal sin because it does not involve for 
mal contempt (contemptus) but merely neglect of God 
(neglectio Dei). 

III. If there were no distinction between mor 
tal and venial sin, then either all sins would be 
mortal or all would be venial. The former prop 
osition would entail Rigorism, the latter Laxism. 

It has been objected that the Catholic teaching 
on this subject is derogatory to virtue and breeds 
lax opinions and carelessness. This accusation 
is unfounded. The Church expressly teaches 
that venial sin is incomparably worse than any 
temporal injury or evil, and can be expiated only 

stateras dolosas, ubi appendamus, amicitiam cum Deo solvit poenamque 
quod volumus et quomodo volumus, aeternam meretur. Dicitur mortals, 
pro arbitrio* nostro dicentes: hoc quid spiritualis vitae principium, gra- 
grave, hoc leve est, sed afferamus tiam scil. habitualem, tollit et mor- 
divinam stateram de scripturis sane- tern animae affert. Veniale est, quod 
tis tamquam de thesauris dominicis, ob suam levitatem gratiam et amici- 
et in ilia quid sit gravius appenda- tiam non tollit, etsi fervorem cari- 
mus, immo non appendamus, sed a tatis minuat et temporalem poenam 
Domino appensa recognoscamus." mereatur. Dicitur veniale, quia sal- 
(Migne, P. L., XLIII, 132). vo vitae spiritualis principio, scil. 
33 Cfr. St. Alphonsus, Theol. gratia, languorem animae facile euro- 
Mor., 1. V, n. 51: "Mortale est, bilem infert veniamque facile con- 
quod ob sui gravitatem gratiam et seqnitur." (Ed. Gaude, II, 747). 

28 SIN 

by sincere contrition and penitence, through the 
merits of Jesus Christ. She exhorts her chil 
dren to avoid all venial sins by means of prayer, 
self-discipline, and the grace of God, because 
no man is allowed to commit even the slight 
est offense against the majesty and justice of 
God. 34 

"No confessor," says Gury, "does his full duty 
unless he tries to wean his penitents from fre 
quent venial sins, especially such as involve full 
advertence, since a man who does not strive to 
avoid venial sins easily falls into mortal sins." 

READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, la 2ae, qu. 72, 
art. 5; qu. 88-89. IDEM, De Malo, qu. 7, art. 1-2. IDEM, Summa 
contra Gentile s, III, c. 143-144. Scheeben, Dogmatik, Vol. II, 
pp. 528 sqq. F. X. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch der Moraltheologie, 
pp. 156 sqq. Chr. Pesch, S.J., Theologische Zeitfragen, II, 
Freiburg 1901, pp. 47 sqq., 83 sqq. J. Stufler, S.J., Die Heilig- 
keit Gottes und der ewige Tod, Innsbruck 1903. IDEM, Die 
Theorien der freiwilligen Verstocktheit, Innsbruck 1905. H. 
Gerigk, Wesen und Voraussetzungen der Todsunde, Breslau 
1903. Ph. Kneib, Die "Jenseitsmoral" pp. 99 sqq. Th. Slater, 
SJ., A Manual of Moral Theology, Vol. I, pp. 136 sqq. Wil- 
helm-Scannell, A Manual of Catholic Theology, Vol. I, pp. 6 
sqq. J. Mausbach, Catholic Moral Teaching and Its Antagonists t 
New York 1914, pp. 258 sqq. G. H. Joyce, SJ., The Catholic 
Doctrine of Grace, N. Y. 1920, pp. 202 sqq. J. S. Vaughan, 
Venial Sin, London 1924. A. Landgraf, Das Wesen der I dsslichcn 
Siinde in der Scholastik bis Thomas von Aquin, Bamberg, 1923. 
V. Cathrein, SJ., Die I dssliche Sunde und die Mittel zu ihrer 
Verhutung, Freiburg i. B. 1926. 

34 Rom. Ill, 8. 



i. THE LEADING CRITERIA. As mortal sins 
are necessary matter for confession (materia 
necessaria), the penitent who enters the sacred 
tribunal must be able to distinguish them with 
comparative certainty from venial sins. For this 
purpose Catholic moralists have established the 
following criteria : 

PRECEPT TRANSGRESSED. If the precept is of 
great importance for the moral and social order 
(materia gravis), and its transgression is likely 
to entail serious consequences, the sin is grievous 
(peccatum grave). If, on the other hand, the 
precept is unimportant (materia parva), and the 
matter divisible, the sin is light. 

Note, however, (i) that this objective distinc 
tion between serious and light sin is not identical 
with the distinction between mortal and venial sin, 
for subjectively or individually a grievous sin may 
be venial and a venial sin mortal, whereas a 

grievous sin per se can never be light nor a mortal 


30 SIN 

sin venial. (2) Some precepts and some sins, 
e. g., simony, blasphemy, murder, fornication, vio 
lation of the seal of confession, are essentially in 
divisible and therefore do not admit of parvitas 
materiae. (3) The decision regarding the ces 
sation of parvitas materiae or the beginning of a 
grievous sin is always more or less arbitrary. (4) 
When a sin is materially grievous, the presump 
tion is that it is a mortal sin, and vice versa. 

FOR A MORTAL SIN. No one who is unconscious 
can sin, and one who is half asleep, or partly in 
toxicated, or feeble-minded, cannot sufficiently ap 
preciate the malice of mortal sin to be guilty of 
it 1 

However, to be guilty of mortal sin, a man need 
not reflect explicitly on the malice of the contem 
plated act or be fully aware of the importance 
of the law transgressed. It is sufficient for him 
to know that the act is sinful. Culpable igno 
rance, therefore, when it results in the commis 
sion of a grievous sin, does not excuse from 
guilt. Still less is it necessary to commit the 
sinful act with the full consciousness of offend 
ing God. Some writers have construed a dis 
tinction between philosophical and theological sin. 
They define the former as an act contrary to rea- 

iCfr. Matth. XXV, 26; Jas. IV, 17; cfr. Gen. XIX, 33-35; XX, 4-6. 


son and the natural law, but involving no con 
scious violation of a divine precept, and hold that 
it may be grievous, but never mortal. This the 
ory has been formally condemned by the Church. 2 
make an act mortally sinful, the will must give 
its full and free consent. This consent need not, 
however, involve the actual and direct intention of 
transgressing the moral law. All that is re 
quired is that it be full and free. 3 

Mortal sin, as we have seen, is a complete turning away 
from God to the creature. No act is mortally sinful un 
less the agent clearly perceives its true character and 
gives full consent. By committing a mortal sin man 
renders himself guilty of eternal damnation. Now it 
would be contrary to the goodness and mercy of God 
to condemn a man to eternal punishment on account of a 
slight transgression or for an act which was not entirely 
free or wilful. 4 

2 Prop. Damnat. ab Alexandra illis sublatis nulla mali cognitio et 
VIII. (Aug. 24, 1690), n. 2 (Den- volitio et proinde nullum peccatum 
zinger-Bannwart, n. 1290). esse potest; sufficiunt vero, quia illis 

3 Cfr. Gury, Compendium Theol. positis mali cognitio et volitio, quae 
Moralis, Vol. I, n. 150: "Ad pec- ad peccatum constituendum neces- 
catum mortale trio necessario re- sariae sunt, aliqud ratione haben- 
quiruntur, scil. (i) materia gravis in tur." 

se vel ob circumstantias, (2) adver- 4 Op. cit. r n. 150: "Requiritur 

tentia plena ad malitiam actus, (3) plena advertentia plenusque consen 

consensus plenus voluntatis in prae- sus, quia, quum per peccatum mor- 

varicationem." Ibid., n. 153: "Ad tale homo totaliter recedat a Deo, ut 

peccatum veniale requiruntur et suffi- creaturis omnino adhaereat, id fieri 

ciunt aliqua advertentia quantum- non potest nisi peccator deliberate 

vis levis ad malitiam et aliquis con- obiectum peccati Deo praeferat et 

sensus quantumvis imperfectus vo- absolute velit in eo finem suum ulti- 

luntatis: requiruntur quidem, quia mum constituere. Insuper a boni- 

3 2 SIN 

Some sins are mortal by their very nature or species 
(peccata mortalia ex genere suo). They are those whose 
object is important in itself, regardless of conditions or 
circumstances, e. g., the theft of a large sum of money. 
Others {peccata mortalia per accident) are rendered mor 
tal by the attending circumstances, e. g., grave scandal. 

Those sins which are mortal by their nature or species 
are subdivided into peccata mortalia ex toto genere suo 
and peccata mortalia ex genere suo non toto. Sins of the 
former class embody some grievous disorder, such as un 
belief, despair, etc. Those of the latter class have an ob 
ject that, though binding under pain of grievous sin, 
admits of degrees because of the smallness of the matter 
involved (parvitas materiae), e. g., theft, slander. 

There is an analogous distinction between venial sins 
ex genere suo and per accidens. The former involve an 
unimportant object, whereas the latter have an important 
object, but are rendered venial by circumstances. 5 

2. PRACTICAL HINTS. a) A venial sin can be 
come mortal, ( I ) by the action of an erroneous 
conscience that wrongly judges a venial sin to be 
mortal; (2) through a gravely sinful intention 
(finis pravus), as when a lie is told in order to 
enable one to commit adultery; (3) on account of 

tate divina prorsus alienum est, ho- etc.; (2) ex genere suo non toto sen 

minem aeternae damnationi addicere simpliciter ex genere suo, quando 

sive per transgressionem levem sive eorum materia in eadem specie ma- 

propter actum non perfecte liberum nens plerumque gravis est, quamvis 

et voluntarium." etiam le-vis esse possit, ut sunt pec- 

5 Ibid.: "Peccata mortalia talia cata contra iustitiam; (3) per acci- 

sunt: (i) Ex toto genere suo, quan- dens, i. e. quando mortalia sunt non 

do eorum obiectum seu materia, ex obiecto suo, sed ex aliqua cir- 

quaecunque ea demum sit, gravem cumstantia, v. g. ex conscientia er- 

continet deordinationem, ut in lu- ronea, etc." Cfr. Gopfert, Moralthe- 

xuria, blasphemia, periurio, liaeresi, ologie. Vol. I, 4th ed., pp. 224-230. 


the proximate danger of mortal sin; (4) be 
cause of formal contempt of the law or the 
lawgiver, and (5) by reason of grave scandal 

In a similar way, an objectively mortal sin may 
become subjectively venial, (i) on account of 
the smallness of the matter involved (parvitas 
materia); (2) through imperfect advertence or 
consent to an act in itself gravely sinful (excus 
able ignorance, extreme haste, weakness) ; (3) 
because of failure to consummate an intended 
sinful action, though it would have been easy to 
do so. 

b) When positive doubt exists as to whether 
an act was mortally sinful or not, this doubt may 
be resolved in favor of the person concerned 
if he was so disposed that he would not have 
committed a mortal sin even though it was easy 
for him to do so, but would have preferred to 
die rather than grievously offend God; or if, 
without his own fault, he was not entirely master 
of his actions; or if he is uncertain whether he 
consented to the sinful act or remembers that he 
proceeded timidly or in doubt. 

Though, strictly speaking, no mortal sin can 
become venial, and no venial sin mortal, because 
of the essential difference existing between the 
two, a person who constantly commits venial sins 
with full deliberation thereby forms evil habits, 



which will sooner or later precipitate him into 
mortal sin and rob his soul of sanctifying grace. 
It is in this sense that the Scholastics say that 
venial sin disposes the soul to mortal sin. 6 

6 Cfr. Ecclus. XIX, i ; Luke XVI, 
10. St. Augustine, Tract, in loa., 
12, n. 14: "Minuta plura peccata 
si neglegantur, occidunt. Minutae 
sunt guttae, quae flumina implent, 
minuta sunt grana arenas, sed si 
multa arena imponatur, premit atque 
opprimtt. Hoc facit sentina neglecta, 
quod facit fluctus irruens, paulatim 
per sentinam intrat, sed diu in- 
trando et non exhaunendo mergit 
navim. Quid est out em exhaurire 
nisi bonis operibus agere, ne obruant 
peccata, gemendo, ieiunando, tribu- 
endo, ignoscendo?" (Migne, P. L., 
XXXV, 1492). IDEM, Serm., 56, c. 
9, n. 12: "Ista omnia, si colligan- 
tur contra nos, num idea non pre- 
munt, quia minuta sunt? Quid in 
terest, utrum te plumbum premat an 
arena? Plumbum una tnassa est, 
arena minuta grana sunt, sed copia 
te premunt. Minuta sunt peccata. 
Non vides de guttis mmutis flumina 
impleri et fundos trahi? Minuta 
sunt, sed multa sunt." (P. L., 
XXXVIII, 383)- IDEM, Serm., 58, 
c. 9, n. 10: "Dimittantur peccata, 
dimittantur praeterita, cessent fu- 
tura. Sed non potes hie vivere sine 
ipsis, vel minora vel minuta sint, vel 
levia sint. Sed ipsa levia et 
minuta non contemnantur. De mi- 
nutis guttis flumina implentur. Non 
contemnantur vel minora. Per an- 
gustos rimulas navis insudat aqua, 
impletur sentina, et si contemnatur 
sentina, mergitur navis." (P. L., 
XXXVIII, 398). Pseudo-Augustine, 
Append. Serm., 292 (a/. 244 de 
tempore), n. 6: "Noli despicere 
peccata tua, quia parva sunt, sed 

time, quia plura sunt. Nam et 
pluviarum guttae minutae sunt, sed 
flumina implent et moles trahunt et 
arbores cum suis radicibus tollunt." 

(P. L., XXXIX, 2999). St. Greg 
ory the Great, Moral., 1. 10, c. n, 
n. 21 : "Ex vanitate ad iniquitatem 
ducimur." (P. L., LXXV, 933). 
St. Thomas, Summa Theol, IE 2ae, 
q. 88, art. 3: "Peccatum veniale 
potest disponere per quondam con- 
sequentiam ad peccatum, quod est 
mortals ex parte agentis. Augmen- 
tata enim dispositione vel habitu per 
actus peccatorum venialium intantum 
potest libido peccandi crescere, quod 
tile, qui peccat, finem suum constituet 
in peccato veniali. Nam unicuique 
habenti habitum, inquantum huius- 
modi, finis est operatic secundum 
habitum, et sic multoties peccando 
venialiter disponetur ad peccatum 
mortals." IDEM, ibid., art. 4: 
"Non omnia peccata venialia de 
mundo possunt habere tantum de 
reatu, quantum unum peccatum mor- 
tale. . . . Si vero intellegatur, quod 
multa peccata venialia faciunt unum 
mortale dispositive, sic verum est 

. . . secundum duos modos dispo. 
sitionis, quibus peccatum veniale dis- 
ponit ad mortale." IDEM, ibid., 2a 
cae, q. 186, art. 9: "Peccatum 
veniale est dispositio ad mortale, in- 
quantum impedit ea, quibus aliquis 
disponitur ad observanda principalia 
praecepta legis Christi, quae sunt 
praecepta caritatis." Cfr. J. P. 
Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., Vol. i, n. 
*53 : "Peccata venialia quantumvis 
multiplicata per se et ratione mul- 
tiplicationis nunquam in mortale 


READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, la 2ae, qu. 88. 
F. X. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch der Moraltheologie, pp. 161 sqq. 
Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of Moral Theology, Vol. I, pp. 136 
sqq H. Gerigk, Wesen und V oraussetzungen der Totsiinde, Un- 
tersuchung der Frage nach dem Wesensunterschiede zwischen 
dem Peccatum Mortale und Veniale, Breslau 1903, especially pp. 
96 sqq. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa TheoL Mor., Vol. I, nth ed., 
pp. 328 sqq. A. Lehmkuhl, S.J., TheoL Mor., Vol. I, nth ed., 
pp. 193 sqq. Sabetti-Barrett, S.J., Comp. TheoL Mor., 22nd ed., 
pp. 113 sqq. A. Tanquerey, Synopsis TheoL Mor. et Pastor., Vol. 
II, pp. 253 sqq. L. Billot, S.J., Disquisitio de Natura et Ratione 
Peccati, Rome 1900, th. I sqq. H. E. Manning, Sin and its Con 
sequences, Ch. I, sqq. (French tr. by Maillet, Le Peche et ses 
Consequences, Avignon 1894, Ch. I sqq.)- B. V. Miller, "Mortal 
and Venial Sin in the Early Church," Irish Eccl. Record, March 
1921, No. 639, pp. 236-256. A. Vermeersch, S.J., TheoL Mor., 
Vol. I, pp. 355 sqq., 368 sqq. A. Landgraf, Das Wescn der 
Idsslichen Sunde in der Scholastik bis Thomas von Aquin, Bam- 
berg 1923. 

coalescere possunt, quia singula in centis ad mortale deveniunt, ut in 
specie inferiori manent. Quando- materia iustitioe praesertim accidit." 
que tamen rations materiae coales- 



The cause of personal sin (causa deficient), 1 
as we have seen, is free-will. "If any one saith," 
defines the Tridentine Council, "that it is not in 
man s power to make his ways evil, but that the 
works that are evil God worketh as well as those 
that are good, not permissibly only, but properly 
and of Himself, in such wise that the treason of 
Judas is no less His own proper work than the 
vocation of Paul; let him be anathema." 2 
"Man s will alone/ says St. Thomas, "is directly 
the cause of his sin." 3 And St. Augustine: 

1 Cfr. St. Augustine, De Civit. 3 Summa Theol., la 2ae, qu. 80, 
Dei, XII, c. 7: "Nemo quaerat ef- art. i: "Sola voluntas hominis est 
ficientem causam malae voluntatis, directe causa peccati eius." Cfr. 
non enim est efUciens, sed deficiens, De Malo, qu. 3, art. 3: "Actus vo- 
quia nee ilia effectio est, sed defec- luntatis nihil aliud est, quam inclina- 
tio. Deficere nanique ab eo, quod tio quaedam voluntatis in volitum, 
summe est, ad id, quod minus est, sicut et appetitus naturalis nihil 
hoc est incipere habere voluntatem est aliud, quam inclinatio na- 
malam." (Migne, P. L., XLI, 355). turae ad aliquid. Inclinatio autem 

2 Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, can. 6: naturae est et a forma naturali et 
"Si quis dixerit, non esse in po- ab eo, qui dedit formam, unde did- 
testate hominis, vias suas malas fa- tur, quod motus ignis sursum est ab 
cere, sed mala opera, ita ut bona, eius levitate et a generante, quod 
Deum operari, non permissive solum, talem formam creavit. Sic ergo 
sed etiam proprie et per se, adeo ut motus voluntatis directe procedit a 
sit proprium eius opus non minus voluntate et a Deo, qui est volunta- 
proditio ludae, quam vocatio Pauli; tis causa, qui solus in voluntate 
anathema sit." operatur et voluntatem inclinare pot- 



"It is written into every heart by the hand of God 
that sin is impossible without the cooperation of 
the will." 4 The will can excite concupiscence 
and proceed from desire to act, thus producing 
sin, as it were, out of itself. The will may also 
be seduced by outside influences (causae occa- 
sionales). Of these there are chiefly two, viz.: 
temptation and occasion. 

I. TEMPTATIONS. Temptation, broadly speak 
ing, is a testing or trial of the will. Defined 
more narrowly, it is a direct incitement to evil 
which stirs up concupiscence and thereby causes 
a struggle between the good and the evil forces of 

A temptation may be either internal or ex 
ternal, and it may proceed from God (tentatio 
probationis), or from the devil, or from the 
world, or from concupiscence. 5 

i. Christ exhorts all men to pray, "Lead us not 
into temptation." 6 St. Paul says that God suf 
fers all to be tempted. 7 Hence there are temp 
tations that come from God. Not, of course, as 

est in quodcunque voluerit. Deus c. 13: "Pugna, quae superest cum 

autem non est causa peccati. Re- came, cum mundo, cum diabolo." 

linquitur ergo, quod nihil aliud sit Cfr. St. Augustine, Serm., 344 (a/. 

direct e causa peccati humani nisi 31), n. i: "Hie propositus nobis 

voluntas." agon, haec lucta cum came, haec 

4 De Duab. Anim. c. Manich., c. lucta cum diabolo, haec lucta cum 

n, n. 15: "Peccatum sine volun- saeculo." (P. L., XXXIX, 1512). 

tate esse non posse omnis mens apud 6 Matth. VI, 13. 

se divinitus conscriptum legit." 7 i Cor. X, 13. Cfr. Gen. XXII, 

(Migne, P. L., XLII, 105.) i; Deut. XIII, 3; Tob. XII, 13. 

6 Cfr. Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, 

38 SIN 

if God seduced His creatures to sin. "Let no 
man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted 
by God, for God is not a tempter of evils, and he 
tempteth no man." 8 "When He tempts a man/ 
says Dr. Pohle, "He simply tries his faith/ as 
in the case of Adam and Abraham ; which is quite 
compatible with His infinite holiness." 9 God 
tries man s faith, not merely in a passive manner, 
by allowing him to be tempted, but sometimes 
actively, by sending him trials and worries 
which may become a source of temptation and 
thereby a means of probing his character. But 
St. Paul tells us that God never allows man to be 
tempted beyond his strength. 10 And St. James 
assures us: "Blessed is the man that endureth 
temptation; for when he hath been proved, he 
shall receive the crown of life which God hath 
promised to them that love him." n Hence Au- 

8 Jas. I, 13: 0e6s direipaffrds lari a patre filium nee impleri hoc 
effTiv KO.KOJV, Tretpdfet de avros munus volebat, qui ovem pro filio 
ovdeva. immolandam obtulit, sed tentabat 

9 Pohle-Preuss, God the Author affectum patris, si Dei praecepta 
of Nature and the Supernatural, praeferret illo nee paternae pietatis 
2nd ed., St. Louis 1916, p. 345. contemplatione -vim devotionis in- 

10 1 Cor. X, 13. flecteret." (Migne;, P. L., XIV, 
11 Jas. I, 12. St. Ambrose, De 445). IDEM, ibid., n. 76: "Aftec- 
Abraham, 1. i, c. 8, n. 66: "Aliter turn tuum inquisivi, non factum ex- 
Deus tentat, aliter diabolus. Dia- egi. Tentavi mentem tuam, si etiam 
bolus tentat, ut subruat, Deus ten- filio dilectissimo non parceres prop- 
tat, ut coronet. Denique probatos ter me. Non aufero, quod donavi 
sibi tentat. Unde et David dicit: ipse nee heredem invideo, quern 
Proba me, Deus, et tenta me (Ps. largitus sum non habenti." (P. L., 
I 38, 23). Et sanctum Abraham pro- XIV, 448). Epist., 51, n. n: "Ho- 
bavit ante et sic tentavit, ne si ante mo es et tibi venit tentatio, vince 
tentaret quam probasset, gravaret. earn." (P. L., XVI, 1162). Expos. 
. . . Non enim volebat Deus immo- Evang. sec. Luc., 1. 4. n. 41: 


gustine s exhortation : "It is not good for us to 
be without temptations, nor should we ask God 
that we be not tempted, but rather that we be not 
led into temptation." 12 

2. THE DEVIL. Sin originated with the 
Devil. He "sinneth from the beginning." 1B He 
is "the prince," 14 " the god of this world," 15 a 
murderer and a liar, 16 "the tempter" par excel 
lence? 1 who seduced our first parents, 18 and 
tempted Job, 19 Ananias and Saphira, 20 Judas, 21 
nay our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. 22 The 
Apostles repeatedly warn the faithful against 
this sinister foe, who is the more dangerous be 
cause, according to St. Paul, he transforms him 
self into an angel of light. 23 In view of the plain 
scriptural teaching on the subject no Chris 
tian needs to be assured that belief in the 
evil one is not a "remnant of medieval supersti 
tion," or that the Devil is not merely a "symbol 
of evil." 24 On the other hand, we must not lose 

"Qui vult coronam dare, tentationes 17 Matth. IV, 3. 

suggerit. Et si quando tentaberis, 18 John VIII, 44. 

cognosce, quia paratur corona. 19 Job I, 12. 

Tolle martyrum certamina, tulisti 20 Acts III, 5. 

coronas, tolle cruciatus, tulisti bea- 21 Luke XXII, 31; John XIII, 2. 

titudines." (P. L., XV, 1625). 22 2 Cor. XI, 3. 

12 Enarr. in Ps., 63, n. i : "Non 23 i Cor. VII, 5. Cfr. 2 Cor. 
nobis expedit esse sine tentationibus XI, 14; Eph. VI, 11-17; i Pet. V, 
nee rogemus Deum, ut non tente- 8-9. 

mur, sed ut non inducamur in ten- 24 Cfr. M. Hagen, S.J., Der Teufel 

tationem." (P. L., XXXVI, 761). $m Lichte der Glaubensquellen, 

13 i John III, 8. Freiburg 1899. Th. H. Simar, Die 

14 John XIV, 30. Theologie des hi. Paulut, and ed., 
15 2 Cor. XI, 3; John XII, 31. pp. 67 sqq.; J. G. Raupert, Hell 
18 Gen. Ill, 1-6. and its Problems, pp. 82 iqq. 


sight of the fact that Satan is a creature depen 
dent upon God and limited in power. He is a 
dangerous tempter, but he can compel no man to 
do wrong. His power amounts to nothing unless 
he can get man to consent to his evil suggestions. 
"It is our will, not his power that delivers us into 
his hands/ says St. Bernard. 25 "However great 
the power and pertinacity of Satan," says the 
Roman Catechism, "he cannot, in his deadly ha 
tred of our race, tempt or torment us as much or 
as long as he pleases; but all his power is gov 
erned by the control and permission of God." 26 
There is an apt comparison of the devil to a 
chained dog in a sermon attributed to St. Augus 
tine. 27 

25 De Gratia et Lib. Arbitrio, c. 
6, n. 18: "Diabolo nostra nos man- 
cipat voluntas, non ipsius potestas." 
(Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, ion). 
Cfr. St. Augustine, Enarr. in Ps. t 
63, n. i : "Alligatus est quidem 
diabolus, ne faciat, quantum potest, 
ne faciat, quantum vult, tamen tan- 
turn tentare sinitur, quantum expedit 
Proficientibus." (P. L., XXXVI, 
761). IDEM, ibid., 103, s. 3, n. 22: 
"Nee tentari quis potest a diabolo 
nisi permittente Deo . . . out ad 
damnandos impios out ad probandos 
pios." (P. L., XXXVII, 1375). 
St. Thomas, Summa Theol., ia 2ae, 
qu. 80, art. 3: "Diabolus propria 
virtute, nisi refraenetur a Deo, pot 
est aliquem inducere ex necessitate 
ad faciendum aliquem actum, qui de 
suo genere peccatum est; non autem 
potest inducere necessitatem pec- 
condi. Quod patet ex hoc, quod 

homo motii/o ad peccandum non re- 
sistit nisi per rationem, cuius usum 
totaliter impedire potest movendo 
imaginationem et appetitum sensi- 
tivum, sicut in arreptitiis patet. 
Sed tune ratione sic ligata quid- 
quid homo agat, non imputatur ei ad 
peccatum. Sed si ratio non sit to* 
taliter ligata, ex ea parte, qua est 
libera, potest resistere peccato. 
Unde manifestum est, quod diabolus 
nullo modo potest necessitatem in 
ducere ad peccandum." 

26 Catech. Rom., P. 4, c. 15, qu. 8: 
"Non Satan in tanta et potentia et 
pertinacia, in capitali odio nostri 
generis nee quantum nee quamdiit 
vult, tentare nos out vexare potest, 
sed omnis eius potestas Dei nutu et 
permissu gubernatur." Cfr. J. 
Wirtz, Die Lehre von der Apolytro* 
sis, Treves 1906, pp. 31 sqq. 

27 Cfr. Pseudo-Augustine, Append. 


As regards the manner in which the devil 
proceeds, note that he is himself a creature, and 
therefore cannot read the souls of men, but 
judges their state by the natural manifestations 
of their thoughts and purposes. 28 Nor can he 
exercise a direct influence upon the human will. 
His methods are necessarily indirect and cir 
cuitous, though for that reason no less effective. 
He works upon the imagination, blindfolds rea 
son, stirs up the passions, etc. "The devil," says 
St. Thomas, is a cause of sin, not directly or suffi 
ciently, but only by persuasion, or by proposing 
the object of appetite." 29 He is "the enemy" 

Serm., 37 (a/. 197 de tempore"), n. 
6: "Alligatus est tanquam innexus 
canis catenis et neminem potest mor- 
dere nisi eum, qui se ad ilium ultra 
mortifera securitate coniunxerit. 
lam videte, fratres, quam stultus 
homo ille est, quern canis in catena 
positus mordet. Tu te ad ilium per 
voluntates et cupiditates saeculi 
noli coniungere, et ille ad te non 
Praesumet accedere. Latrare potest, 
sollicitare potest, mordere non potest 
nisi z olentem. Non enim cogcndo, 
fed suadendo nocet, nee extorquet a 
nobis consensum, sed petit." 
The last sentence is taken from the 
Epistula Pelagii ad Demetriadem, c. 
2$ (ibid., XXXIII, 1117). Cfr. 
Brev. Rom., Dom. IV post Pent., 
Lect. II Noct. 

28 Cfr. St. Jerome, In Ps., 6, 
3o: "Diabolus in anima intrinsecus 
nescit, quid cogitet homo, nisi per 
exteriores motus intellegat." 

29 St. Thomas, Summa Theol., la 
aae, qu. 80, art. i: "Diabolus non 
cst causa peccati directe vel suf- 

ficienter, sed solum per modum per- 
suadentis vel proponentis appetibile." 
Cfr. De Ma/o, qu. 3, art. 2: 
"Quum humana voluntas a nullo de 
necessitate moveatur obiecto, sed a 
se, diabolus non per se est causa pec 
cati, sed tantum per modum suaden 
tis vel proponentis obiectum 
appetibile." Ibid., art. 4: "Quam- 
vis autem diabolus secundum 
ordinem suae naturae posset 
homini aliquid persuadere, intellec- 
tum eius illuminando, sicut facit 
bonus angelus, non tamen hoc facit, 
quia intellectus, quanta magis illu- 
minatur, tanto magis potest sibi ca 
ver e a deceptione, quam diabolus in- 
tendit. Unde relinquitur, quod per- 
suasio interior diaboli et quaecunque 
eius revelatio non fit per illumina- 
tionem intellectus, sed solum per im- 
pressionem quondam in vires sensi- 
tivas interior es aut exteriores. . . . 
Per modum autem disponentis potest 
esse causa peccati, inquantum per 
similem commotionem spirituum et 
humorum facit aliquos magis disposi- 

42 SIN 

who came and "sowed cockle among the wheat 
while men were asleep." 30 

While it must be admitted that the devil, 
"the prince of this world," has a share in every 
sin, it would be wrong to assume that all tempta 
tions come from him. Sacred Scripture points 
to concupiscence as the principal source of sin. 
"Every man is tempted by his own concupis 
cence." 31 The fact that sin is often inspired by 
the devil, does not, of course, render it less 
culpable. Not to speak of concupiscence, which 
exercises a powerful influence over every human 
heart, man himself is but too often the tempter 
and seducer of his fellowmen. 32 

3. THE WORLD. "This present wicked 
world," 33 which is full of sin and impiety, 34 and 
hates God and His servants, 35 is another prolific 
source of sin. The term world, as used in the 
Scriptures, denotes either the physical universe 
or the human race. In the former sense, i. e., 

tos ad irascendum vel ad concupi- pravis consiliis opprimant reluctan- 

scendum vel ad aliquod huiusmodi. tern." (Expos. Evang. sec. Luc., 

Manifestum est enim, quod corpore IV, n. 39; Migne, P. L., XV, 1624). 
aliqualitcr disposito est homo magis 3] Jas. I, 14 sq. ; cfr. Rom. VII, 

pronus ad concupiscentiam et iram 20; Gal. V, 17. 

et huiusmodi passiones, quibus in- 32 Cfr. the Catechism of the Coun- 

surgentibus homo disponitur ad con- cil of Trent, P. IV, c. 15, qu. 10. 
sensum. Sic ergo patet, quod diabo- 33 Gal. I, 4. 

lus interius instigat ad peccatum per- 34 John VII, 7; XIV, 17. 

suadendo et disponendo, non autem 35 John XV, 18 sq.; XVI, 20, 33; 

perficiendo peccatum." XVII, 9, 14, 25. Cfr. Simar, Die 

so Matth. XIII, 25. On the temp- Theologie des hi. Paulus, 2nd ed., 

tation of Job St. Ambrose remarks: pp. 72 sqq.; Tillmann, Die Wie- 

"Adhibetur mulier, primae fraudis derkunft Christi, Freiburg 1909, pp. 

illecebra; . . . amid adhibentur, qui 25 sqq. 


as the aggregate of material things, "the world" 
deceives and lures man away from His Creator. 
Taken in the latter sense, i. e., as humanity, espe 
cially in the state of original sin and estranged 
from the true Church, "the world" is full of 
direct and indirect temptations seduction, de 
nial of truth, scandal, heresies and perverted 
ideals, a corrupt civilization, a mendacious press, 
debased arts, etc. This sad state of affairs ac 
counts for St. John s warning: "Love not the 
world, nor the things which are in the world; 
if any man love the world, the charity of the 
Father is not in him." 36 

4. CONCUPISCENCE. Concupiscence is the in 
ordinate leaning of human nature towards evil. 
It results from the fall of our first parents 37 and 
is the most prolific source of temptations. St. 
James says : "Every man is tempted by his own 
concupiscence, being drawn away and allured. 
Then when concupiscence hath conceived, it 
bringeth forth sin. But sin, when it is com 
pleted, begetteth death." 38 Concupiscence man 
ifests itself through the eyes and the flesh, and 

36 i John II, 15; cfr. Matth. Omnia ista bona sunt, sed malum 

XVIII, 7; Rom. XII, 2; Col. Ill, 2. tnundum mali homines faciunt." 

St. Augustine, Serm., 80 (a/. 23 (Migne, P. L., XXXVIII, 498). 

de Divers.), n. 8: "Malus est mun- 37 Cfr. Pohle-Preuss, God the Au- 

dus, ecce malus est et sic amatur, thor of Nature and the Supernat- 

quasi bonum esset. Quid est autem ural, pp. 203, 217. 

malus miindus? Non enint malum 38 Jas. I, 14-15; cfr. Jas. IV, i; 

est caelum et terra et aquae et quae Gen. II, 6; IV, 7. Supra, Vol. I, 

sunt in eis, pisces, volatilia, arbores. pp. 116 sqq. 

44 SIN 

also in the form of pride. Though not a sin in it 
self, it is "of sin and inclines to sin." 39 It is "an 
incentive" to sin, and becomes sinful only when 
freely consented to. 40 

Concupiscence is in all human beings (with the 
exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary 41 ), but 
manifests itself differently 42 according to tem 
perament, age, sex, disposition, heredity, edu 
cation, training, association, manner of life, and 
other factors. Every man has his own tempta 
tions according to his peculiar constitution of 
body and soul. But each also has his own means 
of fighting temptation. Hence, while no man is 
free from concupiscence and temptation, no one 
is tempted beyond his strength. Every man is 
able, with the aid of grace, to overcome tempta 
tions. Nay, more, he can and should convert 
them into means of spiritual progress. "Blessed 
is the man that endureth temptation ; for when he 
hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of 
life, which God hath promised to them that love 

39 Cone. Trident., Sess. V, can. 5. propter honorem Domini nullam 
Cfr. i John II, 16; Rom. XIII, prorsus, quum de peccatis agitur, ha- 
23. Prop. Damnat. Baii, n. 50 sq., beri volo quaestionem." (Migne, 
74-76 (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 1050 P. L., XLIV, 267). Cfr. Pohle- 
sq., 1073 sqq.). Denifle, Luther Preuss, Mariology, pp. 72 sqq. 

und Luthertum, Vol. I, 2nd ed., pp. 42 Cfr. St. Ambrose, Expos, in 

438 sqq. Evang. sec. Luc., IV, n. 39: "Di- 

40 Cone. Trident., Sess. V, can. 5. versitas ipsa tentationum pro diver- 

41 Pius IX, Bull "Ineffab. Deus" sitate certantium est." (Migne, P. 
(Dec. 13, 1854). St. Augustine, De L., XV, 1624). Cfr. Pius IX, 
Nat. et Grat., c. 36, n. 42: "Ex- Bull "Ineffabilis Deus." 

ceptd sancta Virgine Maria, de qua 


him." 43 Temptation, therefore, is designed to 
test and steel the character. 44 

Christ allowed the devil to tempt Him in order to show 
by His example how temptation should be withstood. 
Moreover, He expressly designated the most effective 
means of combatting it, viz.: watchfulness and prayer, 45 
the practice of the theological virtues, conscientious fidel 
ity to duty, faithful perseverance in one s vocation, mor 
tification, in short, imitating Him in all things. "If any 
man will come after me," He says, "let him deny himself, 
take up his cross, and follow me." 46 

In many temptations, especially those against chastity, 
salvation lies in flight. 47 

"Brethren," admonishes St. Paul, "be strong in the 
Lord and in the might of his power. Put ye on the full 
armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against 
the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against 
flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, 
against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the 
spirits of wickedness in regions above. Therefore take 

43 Jas. I, 12; cfr. Gen. IV, 7; i incipio in Christo vincere, unde in 
Cor. X, 13; Heb. II, 18; i Pet. V, Adam victus sum; si tamen mihi 
9. Christus imago Patris, virtutis ex- 

44 Cfr. H ense, Die Versuchungen, emplum sit. Discamus igitur cavere 
3rd ed., pp. 114 sqq. gulam, cavere luxuriam, quia telum 

45 Matth. XXVI, 41. Cfr. St. est diaboti. . . . Didicisti igitur dia- 
Ambrose, De Cain et Abel, 1. i, c. boli telum, sume scutum fidei, lori- 
5, n. 16: "Docuit te certe Dominus cam abstinentiae." (P. L., XV, 
lesus, quemadmodum adversus hu- 1617). 

iusmodi tentationes resistas." 46 Matth. XVI, 24; cfr. Luke 

(Migne, P. L., XIV, 325)- IDEM, XIV, 27; i Cor. IX, 27. 

Expos. Evang. sec. Lucam, IV, 47 Cfr. Gen. XXXIX, 12; i Cor. 

n. 17: "Tria praecipue docemur VI, 18; Pseudo-Augustine, Append. 

esse tela diaboli, quibus ad convul- Serm. 293 (a/. 250 de Temp.), n. i: 

nerandam mentem hominis consuevit "Contra libidinis impetum appre- 

armari: gulae unum, aliud iactantiae, hende jugam, si -vis obtinere victo- 

ambitionis tertium. Inde autem riam." (P. L., XXXIX, 2301). 

coepit, unde jam vicit. Et ideo inde Cfr. Homer s Odyssey, XII, 120. 

46 SIN 

ye up the full armor of God, that ye may be able to resist 
in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Stand, 
therefore, with your loins girt about with truth, and 
having on the breastplate of justice, and your feet shod 
with the preparation [to carry] the gospel of peace : tak 
ing up withal the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be 
able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one. 
And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword 
of the Spirit (which is the word of God). With all 
prayer and supplication pray at all times in the spirit ; and 
in the same watching with all instance and supplica 
tion . . ." 48 

" When you are tempted," says the Venerable Don 
Bosco, "shake off the thought of evil and do not wait un 
til temptation has gained possession of your heart, but 
ward it off by work or prayer." 

II. OCCASIONS OF SIN. An occasion is an 
external circumstance which leads one to commit 
sin. An occasion, therefore, is not a tempta 
tion; but it may become a temptation by causing 
evil thoughts to arise in the mind and thus in 
citing concupiscence. However, not every oc 
casion necessarily entails temptation, and many 
temptations arise without any external incite 
ment whatever. It is important for the confes 
sor to keep this fact in mind, because habitual and 
occasional sinners must be treated differently. 49 

48 Eph. VI, 10-18. Cfr. St. Au- in cordibus vestris." (P. L., 

gustine, Enarr. in Ps., 136, n. 22: XXXVII, 1774). 
"Si vultis armati esse contra tenta- 49 Cfr. Pighi, De ludicio Sacra- 

tiones in saeculo, crescat et robore- mentali, pp. 39 sqq., 59 sqq.; E. Be- 

tur desiderium lerusalem aeternae rardi, De Recidivis et Occasionariis, 


Occasions, like temptations, are an indispensa 
ble test of virtue. "Who hath been tried . . . 
and made perfect," says Holy Scripture, "he shall 
have glory everlasting: he that could have trans 
gressed and could do evil things, and hath not 
done them." 50 

i. All men are in duty bound to avoid, or, if 
they cannot avoid, to overcome or resist the oc 
casions of sin. 51 To determine this duty more 
definitely, the Scholastics have evolved the fol 
lowing distinctions: 

occasion is proximate (occasio proximo) if it 
leads a person to commit sin oftener than not. 
It is remote (occasio remota) if it leads to the 
commission of sin only once in a while. 

A proximate occasion of sin may be either ab 
solute or relative. It is absolute or proximate in 
itself (occasio absolute sive per se proximo) if it 
constitutes a danger for every man and in all 
circumstances. It is relative (occasio per acci- 
dens sive relative proximo) if the danger it in 
volves differs according to individual character or 
disposition. Relatively proximate occasions are, 
e. g., strong drink, the theatre, a certain class of 
books, plays, etc. 

3rd ed., Faventiae 1882; Aertnys, 50 Ecclus. XXXI, 10; cfr. i Cor. 

C.SS.R., Theol. Mor., Vol. II, 7 th V, 10. 

ed., pp. 192 sqq.; Reuter-Lehmkuhl, 51 Ecclus. Ill, 27; XXXI, 10; 

S.J., Neo-Confessarius, pp. 274 sqq. Matth. V, 29-30; Mark IX, 41-46. 

48 SIN 

An occasion is voluntary (occasio voluntaria) if 
sought or wilfully persisted in after one has got 
ten into it involuntarily. A necessary occasion 
(occasio necessaria) is one that can be avoided 
only by the use of extraordinary diligence or not 
at all. In the latter case it is called physically 
necessary (occasio physice necessaria) . Such 
temptations may grow out of the mutual inter 
course of parents and children, married persons, 
soldiers, prisoners, etc. If it is more difficult to 
avoid an occasion than to keep from sinning by 
the use of proper precautions, an occasion is called 
morally necessary (occasio moraliter necessaria). 
Occasions of this kind cannot, as a rule, be avoided 
without great inconvenience or injury. They in 
variably involve a grave conflict of duties. 52 On 
the one side there is the duty of avoiding the 
proximate occasion of sin; on the other are such 
unavoidable professional obligations as, e. g. f 
hearing confession, practicing medicine, etc. 

Hence the further distinction between occasio 
quae est in esse and occasio quae non est in esse. 
Occasions of the former class entail immediate 
danger of sin, whereas those of the latter leave 
an opportunity of escaping the danger. As an 
example of the former kind we may mention a 
woman being an inmate of a brothel. 53 

52 See Vol. I, pp. 211 sqq. 53 Cfr. St. Augustine, Enarr. in 


2. PRACTICAL HINTS. As a general rule it is 
forbidden to seek an occasion of sin, even though 
it be only remote, for "He that loveth danger 
shall perish in it." 54 On the other hand no man 
is bound to avoid all remote occasions, for this is 
impossible. 55 But every man is strictly bound : 

a) To avoid all proximate and voluntary oc 
casions of (grievous) sin, and also those morally 
necessary occasions that entail immediate danger 
(occasiones in esse}. 5Q It is a mortal sin to ex 
pose oneself voluntarily and without necessity 
to the danger of committing a mortal sin or to 
remain inactive towards such danger in a case 
of necessity, even though the sin be not commit 
ted, for to remain voluntarily in the proximate 
occasion of sin is deliberately to choose evil. In 
nocent XI condemned the proposition that it is 
licit to absolve a man who remains in the proxi 
mate occasion of mortal sin, though able to get 
away from it. 57 

b) If a man finds himself in a morally neces- 

Ps. t 50, n. 3: "Mulier longs, libido candi versatur, quam potest et non 

prope. Alibi erat quod [David} vi- vult omittere, quinimo directs et 

deret, in illo unde caderet." (P. L., ex proposito quaerit out ei se in- 

XXXVI, 587)- gerit." No. 62: "Proximo, occasio 

54 Ecclus. Ill, 27. peccandi non est fugienda, quando 

55 Cfr. i Cor. V, 9-10; John causa aliqua utilis out honesta non 
XVII, 15. fugiendi occurrit." No. 63: "Licitum 

56 Cfr. Prov. VI, 27-28; XVIII, est quaerere directs occasionem pro- 
6-10 ; Matth. V, 29-30; Mark IX, ximam peccandi pro bono spirituals 
41-46. vel temporali nostro vel proximi." 

57 Prop. Dainnat. sub Innocentio (Denzinger-Bannwart, Enchiridion, 
XI, n. 61: "Potest aliquando ab- n. 1078-1080). 

solvi qui in proxima occasions pec- 

50 SIN 

sary proximate occasion of sin, which does not in 
volve immediate danger (quae non est in esse), 
he is in duty bound to convert the same into a re 
mote occasion by fervent prayer, devout reception 
of the Sacraments, frequent renewal of the firm 
purpose of not consenting to sin, and especially 
by avoiding the company of those with whom he 
has sinned before or of whom he has reason to 
apprehend that they will tempt him. Should 
these means prove ineffective, all other consider 
ations must be set aside and the occasion strictly 
shunned, even at the risk of life. 

c) A physically necessary occasion which can 
not be gotten away from, must be neutralized by 
the use of extreme caution and other available 
means. If a man is a proximate occasion of sin 
to himself, he should mortify his body and try 
to the best of his power to control his passions. 
"I chastise my body/ says St. Paul, "and bring 
it into subjection, lest perhaps, when I have 
preached to others, I myself should become a 
castaway." 58 A warning example to all is Pe 
ter s denial of Christ. 59 

READINGS. F. Hense, Die Versuchungen und ihre Gegenmit- 
tel, 3rd ed., Freiburg 1902. Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of Moral 
Theology, Vol. II, pp. 220 sq. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, 
la, qu. 114, art. 1-5. Th. H. Simar, Die Theologie des hi. Pau- 
lus, 2nd ed., pp. 67 sqq. M. Hagen, S J., Der Teufel im Lichte 
der Glaubensquellen, Freiburg 1899. W. H. Kent, art. "Devil" 

68 i Cor. IX, 27. 59 Matth. XXVI, 69 sqq. 


in the Cath. Encyclopedia, Vol. IV, pp. 766 sq. J. J. Ming, S.J., 
art. "Concupiscence," ibid., Vol. IV, p. 208. J. F. Delany, art. 
"Temptation," ibid., Vol. XIV, p. 504. IDEM, art. "Occasions 
of Sin," ibid., Vol. XI, pp. 196 sq. A. Tanquerey, Synopsis Theol. 
Mor. et Past., Vol. II, pp. 248 sqq. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa 
Theol. Mor., Vol. I, nth ed., pp. 322 sqq., 360 sqq. A. Lehm- 
kuhl, S.J., Theol. Mor., Vol. II, nth ed., pp. 358 sqq., 364 sqq. 
Sabetti-Barrett, S. J., Comp. Theol. Mor., 22nd ed., pp. 751 sq. 
A. Konings, CSS.R., Theol. Mor., 2nd ed., New York, 1876, Vol. 
II, pp. 161 sqq. St. Francis de Sales, Introduction a la Vie De 
vote, Part II, Ch. 18, Part IV, Ch. 3-6. A. Vermeersch, S.J., 
Theol. Mor., Vol. I, pp. 403 sqq. F. Ter Haar, CSS.R., De Oc- 
casionariis et Recidivis, Turin 1927. 




To enable men to understand the nature of sin, 
and for the practical purposes of catechetical in 
struction and Penance, Catholic moralists have 
divided sins into classes. 

The most important division is that of mortal 
and venial sins, already dealt with in the previous 

Other divisions are based respectively on the 
Decalogue, the duties violated by sin, the nature 
of man, the intrinsic character of different sins, 
man s relation towards himself and others, and 
the development of evil in the soul. 

The most popular division of sins is that which 
follows the Decalogue or Ten Commandments. 
This classification was confirmed by Christ Him 
self and adopted by St. Paul. 1 The order is not 
strictly logical, however, nor is it quite exhaustive, 

iMatth. V, 21 sqq.; XV, 19; XIX, sq. (different in Rom. XIII, 9)- 
18; Mark X, 19 (a different order Cfr. N. Peters, Die alteste Abschrift 
in Mark VII, 21 sq.); i Tim. I, 9 der zehn Gebote und der Papyrus 



and hence the enumeration of sins based upon it is 
more or less external and does not, in fact, tran 
scend the standpoint of the Old Law, except in so 
far as it interprets the Decalogue in the light of 
the New Testament. Nevertheless this division 
is useful, especially for the examination of con 
science, which is one of the requisites of a good 
confession. 2 

The sins against the Ten Commandments are enumer 
ated in the following verses, handed down by the School 

Est Deus, est nomen, sunt sabbata suntque parentes, 
Mors, moechus, furtum, testis falsus, domus (ef) uxor. 

Or, in amplified form: 

Idola sperne, Dei non sit tibi nomen inane, 
Sabbat o sanctifices, habeas in honor e parentes, 
Non occisor ens, moechus, fur, testis iniquus, 
Non alii nuptam, non rem cupias alienam. 

classification is purely formal and of no particu 
lar value for judging the nature of sin. 

a) When all other conditions are equal, a sin 
of commission is worse than a sin of omission 
because the negative precepts of the law bind un 
der a more serious penalty than those which are 
affirmative, and to transgress them involves a 

Nash, Freiburg 1905; M. Hetzen- 2 This division is adopted by Sa- 

auer, Theologia Biblica, Vol. I, Frei- betti, Slater, Noldin, and other 
burg 1908, pp. 634 sqq. present-day moralists. 

54 SIN 

more determined effort of the will. Since, how 
ever, sins of omission suppose a positive act of the 
will refusal to obey God and hence are volun 
tary, they, too, may be mortal. 3 Sins of omission, 
f uthermore, are often more dangerous to the soul 
than sins of commission, because less attention 
is paid to them, and they are rarely made the ob 
ject of contrition and penitence by the careless. 

b) The division of sins into sins against God, 
against oneself, and against one s f ellowmen 4 is 
likewise purely external, because every sin is by 
its very nature an offense against God and one 
self, and in a certain sense also against one s fel- 
lowmen. Nevertheless, this classification is use 
ful, and derives additional justification from the 
fact that some sins are more directly opposed than 
others to the duties which man owes to God, 
to his fellowmen, and to himself. 

FLESH. This distinction is based on the com 
posite nature of man and is mentioned in Sacred 
Scripture. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: 
"Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of 
the flesh and of the spirit." 5 Man is a compound 
of body and soul, and hence none of the sins 
that he is able to commit is either entirely spirit- 

3Cfr. Matth. VII, 19; XXV, 30. * Cfr. Matth. XXII, 36-40; Tit. 

St. Thomas, Summa Theol., la II, 12. St. Thomas, ibid., art. 4. 
aae, qu. 72, art. 6. B 2 Cor. VII, i. Cfr. Matth. IV, 

i-n; i Pet. II, ii ; i John II, 16. 


ual or entirely carnal. True, the Bible some 
times applies the term "flesh" (<rap) to human 
nature as corrupted by sin, and St. Paul enumer 
ates envy, wrath, dissension, etc., among "the 
works of the flesh." G But this cannot alter the 
obvious fact that a real distinction exists between 
spiritual sins (pec cat a spiritualia) and carnal 
sins (peccata carnalia). 

A carnal sin is one by which man gratifies some 
disorderly inclination of his sensitive nature 
concupiscence of the eyes or concupiscence of the 
flesh. By the commission of such a sin man, 
who is a rational creature, subjects himself, 
as it were, to matter. The chief sins of the flesh 
are fornication, luxury, gluttony, avarice, greed, 
idolatry, and witchcraft. 

Sins of the spirit are committed by indulging 
the disorderly inclinations that have their seat in 
the mind, e. g., pride, envy, hatred. 7 These, to 
borrow a phrase from St. Thomas, are "the sins 
which consist in mental gratification." 

Which of these two species is the more dangerous or 
the more grievous is difficult to say. Sins of the flesh 
easily attain consummation and develop into habits; but 

6 Gal. V, 19-21; cfr. i Cor. Ill, 8 St. Thomas, Summa Theol, la 
3. Cfr. H. H. Wendt, Die Begriffe zae, qu. 72, art. 2: "Ilia peccata, 
Fleisch und Geist im biblischen quae perficiuntur in delectatione spi- 
Sprachgebrauch, Gotha 1878, pp. 42 rituali, vocantur peccata spiritualia; 
sqq., 78 sqq. ilia vero, quae perficiuntur in delecta- 

7 Matth. IV, 1-9; Gal. V, 20; X tione carnali, vocantur peccata car- 
John II, 16. nalia, sicut gula, quae perficitur in 


their guilt is diminished by the weakening of the will due 
to concupiscence. Sins of the spirit, on the other hand, 
involve greater malice and self-deception, a circum 
stance that renders conversion more difficult, nay often 
impossible. Christ Himself assured the haughty Phari 
sees: "The publicans and the harlots shall go into the 
kingdom of God before you." 9 No sin is greater or more 
dangerous than pride and excessive self-esteem. St. Au 
gustine observes that "A humble sinner is better than a 
just man puffed up with pride." 10 Christ says that the 
publican "went down into his house justified," whereas 
the Pharisee did not; and He adds: "Every one 
that exalteth himself, shall be humbled, and he that hum- 
bleth himself, shall be exalted." Broadly speaking, we 
may say that the sins of the flesh are less culpable than 
those of the spirit, but involve greater shame. 11 

delectatione ciborum, et luxuria, quae 
pe*"ficitur in delectatione venereorum. 
Unde et Apostolus dicit (2 Cor. VII, 
i): Emundetnus nos ab omni ini- 
quitate carnis et spiritus. " 

oMatth. XXI, 31; cfr. Matth. 
XXIII, 13-33; Luke VII, 36-48; 
XVIII, 14; John VIII, 3-1 1. 

10 Serm., 170, n. 7: "Melior est 
peccator humilis, quam iustus super- 
bus." (Migne, P. L., XXXVIII, 

11 Cfr. Luke XVIII, 14. St. Au 
gustine, Enarr. in Ps., 93, n. 15: 
"Videte, fratres, placuit Deo tnagis 
humilitas in malis factis quam su- 
perbia in bonis factis: sic odit Deus 
superbos." (P. L., XXXVII, 1203). 
St. Thomas, Summa Theol., ia 
2ae, qu. 73, art. 5: "Peccata spiri- 
tualia sunt maioris culpae, quam pec- 
cata carnalia. Quod non est sic in- 
tellegendum, quasi quodlibet pecca- 
tutn spirituale sit maioris culpae 
quolibet peccato carnali, sed quia 

considerata hac sola differentia spi- 
ritualitatis et carnalitatis, graviora 
sunt, quam cetera peccata ceteris 
paribus. Cuius ratio triplex potest 
assignari: prima quidem ex parte 
subiecti, nam peccata spiritualia per 
tinent ad spiritum, cuius est con- 
verti ad Deum et ab eo averti, pec 
cata vero carnalia consummantur in 
delectatione carnalis appetitus, ad 
quern principaliter pertinet ad bonum 
corporate converti, et idea peccatum 
carnale, inquantum huiusmodi, plus 
habet de conversione, propter quod 
etiam est maioris adhaesionis, sed 
peccatum spirituale habet plus de 
aversione, ex qua procedit ratio cul 
pae, et idea peccatum spirituale, in- 
quantum huiusmodi, est maioris cul 
pae. Secunda ratio potest sumi ex 
parte eius in quern peccatur, nam 
peccatum carnale, inquantum huius 
modi, est in corpus proprium, quod 
est minus diligendum secundum or- 
dinem caritatis, quam Deus et 


Psychologically, we may distinguish between sins 
of thought, word, and deed. The Angelic Doc 
tor explains the underlying process as follows: 
"The first beginning of sin is its foundation, as 
it were, in the heart; the second degree is the 
sin of word, in so far as man is ready to break 
out into a declaration of his thought. The 
third degree consists in the consummation of the 
deed. Consequently these three differ in re 
spect of the various degrees of sin. Neverthe 
less it is evident that all three belong to the one 
complete species of sin, since they proceed from 
the same motive. For the angry man, through 
desire of vengeance, is at first disturbed in 
thought, then breaks out into words of abuse, 
and lastly goes on to wrongful deeds; and the 
same applies to lust and to any other sin." la 

proximus, in quos peccatur per pec- corporis corruptionem cadere, quam 
cata spiritualia, et idea peccata cogitatione tacita ex deliberate* ela- 
spiritualia, inquantum huiusmodi, tione peccare, sed quum minus tur- 
sunt maioris culpae. Tertia ratio pis superbia creditur, minus vitatur. 
potest sumi ex parts motivi, quia Luxuriam vero eo magis erubescunt 
quanto est gravius impulsivum ad homines, quo simul omnes turpem 
peccandum, tanto homo minus peccat f noverunt. Unde fit plerumque, ut 
peccata autem carnalia habent vehe- nonnulli post superbiam in luxuriam 
mentius impulsivum, id est, ipsam corruentes ex aperto casu malum cul- 
concupiscentiam carnis nobis inna- pae latentis erubescant; et tune 
tarn, et idea peccata spiritualia, in- ctiam maiora corrigunt, quum pro- 
quantum huiusmodi, sunt maioris strati in minimis gravius confundun- 
culpae." IDEM, De Verit., qu. 25, tur. Reos enim se inter minora con- 
art. 6, ad 2: "Peccata irascibilis spiciunt, qui se liberos inter graviora 
sunt graviora, sed peccata concu- crediderunt." (Migne, P. L., LXXVI, 
piscibilis turpiora." St. Gregory the 688). 

Great, Moral., 1. 33, c. 12, n. 25: 12 Summa Thcol, la 2ae, qu. 72, 

"Scimus, quia aliquando minus est in art. 7: "Peccatum dividitur per 

5 8 SIN 

Thus every sin is a sin of thought (peccatum 
cordis), because every sin originates in the 
mind. 13 But not every evil thought "breaks out 
into words," much less does it culminate in sinful 
deeds. 14 

a) A thought, as such, is mortally sinful if the 
will consents to, and takes pleasure in, the evil 
suggestion offered by the senses or the imagina 
tion. The technical term of Scholastic theology 
for such wilfully entertained evil thoughts is 
morose pleasure (delectatio morosa). "Pleas 
ure is said to be morose, not from a delay of time 
(mora), but because the mind in deliberating 
dwells (immoratur) thereon, and fails to drive it 
away, deliberately holding and turning over what 
should have been cast aside as soon as it touched 
the mind/ as Augustine says." 15 To take pleas- 

haec tria, scilicet peccatum cordis, vero procedit usque ad facto, iniuri- 

oris et operis, non sicut per diversas osa; et idem patet in luxuria et in 

species completas, nam consummatio quolibet olio peccato." Cfr. St. 

peccati est in opere, unde peccatum Gregory the Great, Moral., I. 4, c. 

opens habet speciem completam, sed 27, n. 30: "Peccati modi vel in 

prima inchoatio eius est quasi fun- corde latenter Hunt vel patenter in 

datio in corde; secundus autem opere perpetrantur." (P. L., LXXV, 

gradus eius est in ore, secundum 661). 

quod homo prorumpit facile ad mani- 13 Cfr. Matth. IX, 4; XII, 34; 

festandum conceptum cordis; tertius XV, 18-19; Mark VII, 20-23. St. 

autem gradus iam est in consumma- Jerome, In lerem., I, c. 4. P. A. 

tione operis. Et sic haec tria dif- Kirsch, Zur Geschichte der kath. 

ferunt secundum diver sos gradus Beicht, Wiirzburg 1902, pp. 50 sqq. 

peccati. Patet tamen, quod haec tria 14 Cfr. Ps. XXXIII, 13 sqq.; 

pertinent ad unam perfectam peccati Prov. XVIII, 21; Matth. XII, 36 

speciem, quum ab eodem motivo pro- sq. ; XXIII, 3; Rom. II, 6; Gal. V, 

cedant. Iracundus enim ex hoc, quod 19; Eph. IV, 29; V, 4; Jas. I, 26; 

appetit vindictam, primo quidem III, 2; i Pet. Ill, 10. 

perturbatur in corde, secundo in 15 St. Thomas, Summa Theol., xa 

verba contumeliosa prorumpit, tertio 2&t, qu. 74, art. 6, ad 3: "Delec- 



ure in an evil thought deliberately and with full 
advertence, is always a sin, whether mortal or 
venial depends on the character of the thought it 
self. Not every thought of evil is in itself sinful. 
There is a distinction between taking pleasure in 
the thought of evil (delect atio de cogitatione rei 
malae) and taking pleasure in an evil object 
(delect atio de re mala cogitat a). Thinking about 
a sin for a good and sufficient reason, e. g., to 
study its nature and effects, to find an antidote 
against it, to protect others from its ravages, 
is not delect atio morosa. lQ Nor is it sinful 

tatio dicitur morosa non ex mora, 
sed ex eo quod ratio deliberans circa 
earn immoratur, nee tamen earn re- 
Pellit, tenens et volvens libenter, 
quae statim ut attigerunt animum, 
respui debuerunt, ut Augustinus 
dicit (De Trinit., XII, c. 12, n. 18)." 
(Migne, P. L., XLII, 1008). 

16 St. Thomas, Summa Theol., la 
aae, qu. 74, art. 8: "Quum omnis 
delectatio consequatur aliquam opera- 
tionem, et iterum quum omnis delec 
tatio habeat aliquod obiectum, 
delectatio quaelibet potest comparari 
ad duo, scilicet ad operationem, quant 
consequitur, et ad obiectum, in quo 
quis delectatur. Contingit autem, 
quod aliqua operatio sit obiectum 
delectationis sicut et aliqua alia res, 
quia ipsa operatio potest accipi ut 
bonum et finis, in quo quis delecta- 
tus requiescit. Et quandoque qui- 
dem ipsamet operatio. quam conse 
quitur delectatio, est obiectum delec 
tationis, inquantum scilicet vis appe- 
tiva, cuius est delectari, reflectitur in 
ipsam operationem, sicut in quoddam 
bonum, puta quum aliquis cogitat et 

delectatur de hoc ipso, quod cogitat, 
inquantum sua cogitatio ei placet; 
quandoque vero delectatio consequent 
unam operationem, puta cogitationem 
aliquam, habet pro obiecto aliam ope 
rationem quasi rem cogitatam, et 
tune talis delectatio procedit ex in- 
clinatione appetitus, non quidem in 
cogitationem, sed in operationem 
cogitatam. Sic igitur aliquis de for- 
nicatione cogitans de duobus potest 
delectari: uno de ipsa cogitatione, 
alio modo de ipsa fornicatione cogi- 
tata. Delectatio autem de cogita 
tione ipsa sequitur inclination em 
affectus in cogitationem ipsam, cogi 
tatio autem ipsa secundum se non 
est peccatum mortale, immo quando 
que est veniale tantum, puta, quum 
aliquis inutiliter cogitat de ea, quan 
doque autem sine peccato omnino, 
puta, quum aliquis utiliter de ea co 
gitat, sicut quum vult de ea praedi- 
care vel disputare, et ideo per conse- 
quens affectio et delectatio, quae sic 
est de cogitatione fornicationis, non 
est de genere peccati mortalis, sed 
quandoque est peccatum veniale, 

60 SIN 

to reflect with pleasure on the adroitness with 
which a sin has been committed, or other cir 
cumstances surrounding the same. Note, how 
ever, that the line of demarcation between what 
is sinful and what is permitted in such thoughts 
is difficult to draw. To rejoice over a sin (gau- 
dium de peccato), whether it be one s own or that 
of another, is always forbidden. 17 

b) A thought becomes sinful as soon as the will 
harbors a desire to commit the evil deed (de- 
siderium pravum inefftcax). However, there is 
a distinction between conditional and uncondi 
tional desires. 

A conditional desire (desiderium conditio 
nal um) is sinful unless the condition takes away 
the malice of the act. Father Slater explains 
this as follows : "There is no harm, for example, 
in saying : T should like to eat meat on a Friday, 
unless the Church forbade it; and the same is 
true generally whenever the condition, If it were 
lawful/ is annexed to a merely positive prohibi- 

quandoque nullum, unde nee con- tui eius. Quod autem aliquis ex de- 
sensus in talem delectationem est liberations eligat, quod affectus suns 
peccatum mortale. . . . Quod autem conformetur his, quae secundum se 
delectetur de ipso actu cogitato, hoc sunt peccata mortalia, est peccatum 
aliquis cogitans de fornicatione mortale." Cfr. St. Alphonsus, Theol. 
contingit ex hoc, quod affectio eius Mor., 1. 2, n. 12-29. 
inclinata est in hunc actum. Unde 17 Prov. II, 14. Cfr. Prop. Dam- 
quod aliquis consentiat in talem nat. sub Innocentio XI., n. 15: 
delectationem, hoc nihil aliud est, "Licitum est filio gaudere parricidio 
quam quod ipse consentiat in hoc, parentis a se in ebrietate perpetrato 
quod affectus suus sit inclinatus in propter ingentes divitias inde ex 
fornicationem, nullus enim delectatur haereditate consecutas." (Denzin- 
nwi in eo, quod est conforme appeti- ger-Bannwart, n. 1032). 


tion. If this condition is annexed to a desire 
against the natural law, as I should like to steal if 
it were lawful/ or I should like to commit forni 
cation if it were not forbidden/ the condition does 
not remove all the malice of the vicious will, for 
the very tendency of the will toward such objects 
is against right reason. Such conditional de 
sires then are sinful, unless they indicate a mere 
propensity towards such sins without any volun 
tary affection of the will. In any case, however, 
they are dangerous, and should not be indulged 
or expressed/ 18 

c) A sin of thought, lastly, is a complete sin, 
divided from the external act only by an accident, 
if there is present an efficacious desire (deside- 
rium pravum efficax) and a definite intention to 
take the necessary means to accomplish the de 
sired end (decretum peccandi*) . ig 

Sins of word, taken generically, receive a specific malice 
when they are accompanied by deeds, as in contumely, 
lust, and the like, or when they give scandal. 

St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, and other Fa 
thers compare the evolution of sin from thought through 
word to deed with the three different ways in which our 
Lord raised the dead to life. 20 The analogy is striking 
and offers food for meditation. 

18 Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of 19 Cfr. Ex. XX, 17; Matth. V, 28. 

Moral Theology, Vol. I, p. 150. 20 Cfr. St. Augustine, De Serm. 

Cfr. Gen. Ill, 6; i Cor. X, 6; Gal. Dom. in Monte, I, c. 12, n. 35 

V, 24. (Migne, P. L., XXXIV, 1247); 

62 SIN 

cial being placed in the midst of his fellowmen, 
may become an occasion of, or accessory to, the 
sins of others. 21 The distinction between pec- 
cata propria and peccata aliena is popular rather 
than scientific, for in the last analysis every sin is 
a peccatum proprium, inasmuch as it is caused by 
the ego of the sinner. But a man may share 
the guilt of another s sin by becoming accessory 
to it, i. e., by lending formal cooperation. This 
he may do negatively, by failing to prevent the 
other s sin, or by concealing or omitting to punish 
it if it is his duty to do so; or positively, by 
directly or indirectly seducing others, participat 
ing in, or at least consenting to, their evil actions, 
or glossing them over. 

The different ways in which one may become accessory 
to the sins of others have been brought into hexameters as 
follows : 

lussio, consilium, consensus, palpo, recursus, 
Participans, mutus, non obstans, non manifestans; 

Qui suadet, iubet, assentit, stimulat, mala laudat, 
Qui silet, indulget, iuvat et defendere tentat. 

As we know from the Catechism, a man may become 
accessory to the sins of others: 

Serm., 98, n. 5-7 (XXXVIII, 593); 22; 2 John 10-11; Apoc. XVIII, 4. 

Serm., 128, n. 14 (P. L., XXXVIII, St. Augustine, De Morib. Eccl., 

720). St. Gregory the Great, Mo- II, c. 17, n. 57: "Nlhil interest, 

ralia, 1. 4, c. 27, n. 52. utrum ipse scelus admittas an propter 

21 Cfr. Prov. XXIX, 24; Matth. te ab alio admitti velis." (Migr.e, 

XVIII, 6; Rom. I, 32; i Tim. V, P. L., XXXVI, 162). 


a) By counsel (consilium), i. e., by giving advice or 
urging motives, or by showing how an evil deed may be 
done, or the punishment due to it escaped. 22 

b) By command (iussio), i. e., by inducing another to 
do an injury, especially if one is a superior. 23 

c) By consent (consensus), i. e., by agreeing to sinful 
proposals or suggestions. 24 As Father Slater points out, 
this sin is committed by members of legislative bodies 
when they agree together to pass an unjust law, and also 
by jurymen who concur in a wrong verdict. 25 

d) By provocation (irritatio), i. e., by employing 
anger or ridicule for the purpose of persuading another 
to commit an injustice or to omit to make reparation for 
an injury committed. This sin is also committed by 
those who dress indecently, exhibit obscene pictures, sell 
or loan bad books, carry on unchaste conversations, etc., 
thereby causing others to sin. 26 

e) By praise or flattery (palpo), i. e., by commending 
the wicked conduct of others, instigating them to rebellion 
against lawful authority, eulogizing their crimes, etc. 27 

f ) By silence (reticentia), i. e., by omitting to dissuade 
others from sin or failing to censure their misdeeds, if one 
is in duty bound to do so; tolerating evil company or 
dangerous occasions, etc. 28 

g) By connivance (conniventia), i. e., by neglecting to 
punish sinful conduct in children or subjects. Heli was 
punished "because he knew that his sons did wickedly, 
and did not chastise them." 29 

22 As when Caiphas advised the 25 A Manual of Moral Theology, 
Jews to put Jesus to death. (John Vol. I, pp. 420 sq. 

XI, 50). 26 Cfr. Gen. Ill, 1-6. 

23 Cfr. Ex. I, 15 sqq.; 2 Kings 27 Cfr. Ez. XIII, 18; Rom. I, 32. 
XI, 14; Matth. II, 16. 28 Cfr. Lev. V, i; Is. LVI, 10; 

24 Cfr. Gen. XXXIX, 10; Acts Prov. XXIX, 25. 

VII, 57; XXII, 20; Eph. V, 6 sq. 29 Cfr. i Kings III, 13; II, 23 sqq. 

6 4 SIN 

h) By sharing in unjustly acquired goods (participatio, 
recursus), i. e. f by knowingly buying them, accepting, 
receiving or selling them for the thief or robber, afford 
ing protection to wrong-doers, permitting one s property 
to be used for sinful purposes, assisting in forbidden com 
merce by carrying letters and messages, making or fur 
nishing articles designed to destroy human life, etc. 30 

i) By defense of the evil done (prava defensio), i. e., 
by excusing the evil conduct of others by word of mouth 
or in writing (novels, poems, plays), representing vice as 
mere weakness, etc. 31 

The gravity of these sins depends upon the degree of 
cooperation furnished. Positive is always more culpable 
than negative cooperation. Among the various forms of 
positive cooperation the most reprehensible are those 
which exercise the greatest influence upon the conduct of 
others. Thus, to command a sinful act is a greater sin 
than merely to counsel it, and to counsel it a greater sin 
than merely to consent to its commission. 

6. GENETIC DIVISION. Sins may also be di 
vided with respect to the various stages of malice 
through which they pass from their first begin 
ning to the moment of consummation. There are 
three such stages. 

a) The first is represented by what are com 
monly known as the seven so-called capital sins, 
in which all others have their wellspring and root. 
Every sin is essentially an inordinate desire mani 
fested in a "lusting of the flesh against the 

SOCfr. Matth. XXVIII, 12; Luke XXII, 3 sqq. 
Si Cfr. Luke XI, 47 sqq. 


spirit" 32 through concupiscence of the eyes, 
concupiscence of the flesh, or pride of life, ac 
cording to each man s character or social posi 
tion. 33 Concupiscence of the flesh reveals itself 
as gluttony and unchastity ; concupiscence of the 
eyes, as avarice and envy; pride of life, as con 
ceit and anger. To these palmary forms of in 
ordinate desire must be added sloth, i. e., that 
lack of moral energy which enters into every sin 
and sometimes assumes the character of moral 
indifference. Actual sins, explains St. Bonaven- 
ture, have one beginning, a twofold root, a three 
fold stimulus, and a sevenfold source. The be 
ginning is pride; the two roots are false respect 
and misdirected desire; the threefold stimulus is 
concupiscence in its three distinct forms; the 
seven sources are pride, envy, anger, sloth, ava 
rice, intemperance, and unchastity, of which the 
first five are spiritual and the last two carnal 
sins. 34 

b) The second stage is characterized by the 
sins of which Sacred Scripture says that they cry 

82 Rom. VII, 14-23; Gal. V, 17; tium, scilicet superbia, iuxta quod 

i Pet. II, ii. dicit Scriptura: Initium oninis 

33Cfr. i John II, 16; Matth. IV, peccati superbia (Eccles. X, 75). 

i-io. Duplex radix, scilicet titnor male 

ZiBrevil,, P. Ill, c. 9: "Circa humilians et amor male accendens. 

ortum peccatorum capitalium hoc est Triplex fomentum secundum trio, 

in summa tenendum, videlicet, quod quae sunt in mundo, scilicet concu- 

peccatum unum, inquam, est ini- piscentia carnis, concupiscentia ocu- 

tium, duplex radix, triplex fomen- lorum et superbia vitae (r loa. ii, 

turn, septiforme caput sive capitale 16). Septiforme vero caput, scilicet 

peccatum. Unum, inquam, est ini- superbia, invidia, ira, acedia, avaritia, 

66 SIN 

to heaven for vengeance. They mark the height 
of viciousness and are absolutely opposed to man s 
rational nature. 

c) The third stage consists in that wilful mal 
ice and impenitence which is known as the sin 
against the Holy Ghost. 

READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, la 2ae, qu. 72, 
art. 1-7. Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of Moral Theology, Vol. 
I, pp. 149 sqq. ; 418 sqq. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theol. Mor., 
Vol. I, nth ed., pp. 320 sqq. A. Tanquerey, Synopsis Theol. 
Mor. et Pastor., Vol. II, pp. 276 sqq., 282 sqq. A. Lehmkuhl, 
S.J., Theol. Mor., Vol. I, nth ed., pp. 199 sqq. 

gula et luxuria. Inter quae quin- Fructibus Carnis et Spiritus, c. 3-10 

que praecedentia sunt peccata spiri- (Migne, P. L., CLXXVI, 999) ; St. 

tualia, duo vero ultima sunt car- Thomas, Summa Theol., ia aae, qu. 

nalia." (Opera, ed. 2a, Vicetia, p. 84, art. 4. 
225). -Cfr. Hugh of St. Victor, De 



The so-called capital sins (peccata capitalia) 
must not be conceived as transient acts. They 
are rather the fundamental vices from which all 
sins flow, or the bad habits that manifest them 
selves in actual sins. 1 Hence the capital sins 
are neither by nature nor in their concrete mani 
festation always mortal, and it is a mistake to 
call them "deadly." The specific character and 
gravity of each may be determined by the pres 
ence or absence of certain marks or characteris 

The capital sins are usually enumerated in the 
following order : Pride, covetousness, lust, envy, 

l Cfr. Hugh of St. Victor, Summa alia vitia oriuntur et praecipue se- 

Sent., tr. 3, c. 16: "De istis quasi cundum originem causae finalis, quae 

septem fontibus omnes animarum est formalis origo, et idea vitium 

corruptiones emanant. Nee dicuntur capitals non solum est principium 

haec capitalia, quod maiora sint aliis, aliorum, sed etiam est directirum 

quum alia aeque magna sint vel ma- et quodammodo ductivum aliorum. 

iora, scd capitalia a quibus oriuntur Semper enim ars vel habitus, ad 

omnia alia. Nullum enim est, quod quern pertinet finis, principatur et 

ab aliquo horum non est exortum." imperat circa ea quae sunt ad finem. 

(Migne, P. L., CLXXVI, 113). Unde S. Grcgorius huiusmodi vitia 

St. Thomas, Summa Theol., xa aae, capitalia ducibus exercituum com- 

q. 84, art. 3: "Dicitur peccatum parat." (Moral., 1. 31, c. 45, n. 87- 

capitale, prout metaphorice significat 88; Migne, P. L., LXXVI, 620 

principium vel directivum aliorum. sq.). 
Et sic dicitur zntium capitale, ex quo 


68 SIN 

gluttony, anger, and sloth. From the initials of 
the Latin words superbia, avaritia, luxuria, in- 
vidia, gula, ira, acedia, the Schoolmen formed the 
catch-word saligia as an aid to the memory. 

This septenary number, which may be traced back to 
St. Gregory the Great, became established at the time of 
Peter Lombard. Previously, theologians were wont to 
count eight or even nine capital sins. 2 

I. PRIDE. Pride (superbia, cenodoxia) is in 
ordinate self-esteem or love of one s own pre 
eminence, coupled with a desire of inducing oth 
ers to accept the exaggerated opinion one has 
formed of oneself. This vice manifests itself in 
as many different ways as there are objects which 
man is able to claim as real or supposed excel 
lences or prerogatives. 3 

Pride may take the form of vanity, presump 
tion, ambition, or arrogance. 

I. VANITY. Vanity is pride inspired by an overween 
ing conceit in one s personal appearance, attainments or 
characteristics, especially when coupled with an excessive 
desire for notice or approval. This vice makes a man 

2 Cfr. Greg. M., Moral., XXXI, bona, sibi vult arrogare et derogat 
c. 45 ; O. Zockler, Evagrius Ponti- misericordiae Dei. Quis est super- 
cus, Munich 1893, p. 104. bus? Qui etiamsi Deo tribuat 

3 Cfr. Luke XVIII, 9-14. St. Au- bona, quae facit, insultat tamen 
gustine, Enarr. in Ps., 93, n. 15: eis, qui ilia non faciunt, et extollit 
"Quis est superbus? Qui non con- se super illos." (Migne, P. L., 
fessione peccatorum agit poeniten- XXXVII, 1203). Cfr. S. Hai- 
tiam, ut sanari per humilitatem pos- dacher, Des hi. Johannes Chry- 
sit. Quis est superbus? Qui ilia sostomus Biichlein iiber die Hoffart, 
ipsa pauca, quae videtur habere pp. 34 sqq. 


foolish in the eyes of his fellowmen, injures the moral 
character, favors sensuality and extravagance, and often 
entails poverty and want. Intentional neglect of one s 
personal appearance or of the rules of taste and good 
breeding may also be put down as a kind of vanity. 

2. PRESUMPTION. Presumption is an exaggerated no 
tion of one s intellectual or moral excellence, talents, vir 
tues, etc., attended by the wish to undertake things that 
are above one s capacity. Intellectual presumption ren 
ders a man ridiculous, while moral presumption is de 
structive of religion and morality and often entails hy 

3. AMBITION. Inordinate ambition (prava ambitio) is 
an unreasonable striving after dignities, honors, or power. 
Ambition is commonly only a venial sin, but becomes 
mortal when it employs grievously sinful means and dis 
regards the distinction between true and false honor. 5 

There is a just ambition which moves a man to desire 
dignities and honors with moderation for the purpose 
of being able to accomplish more for the glory of God 
and the welfare of his fellowmen. "If a man desire the 
office of a bishop, he desireth a good work/ says St. 
Paul. 6 

4. ARROGANCE (superbia completa sive perfecta) is that 
haughtiness and proud contempt of others which leads 
a man to despise and transgress human and divine laws. 

4 Cfr. Matth. VI, 1-6; VII, 1-5; virtututn specie celantur." (Migne, 

Luke XVIII, 10-14; i Tim. VI, 4. P. L., XXII, 1214). 

St. Jerome, Epist., 148 (a/. 14), n. 6 Cfr. St. Thomas, Summa Theof., 

20: "Aliud est virtutem habere, 2a 2ae, qu. 131 sq. 

aliud virtutis similitudinem; alind 6 i Tim. Ill, i. Cfr. C. Gennari, 

est rerum umbram sequi, aliud veri- Consultazioni Morali-Canoniche, Vol. 

tatem. Multo deformior ilia est I, 2nd ed., Rome 1902, p. 638. 

superbia, quae sub quibusdam hu- Homer, Iliad, VI, 208. It is not 

tnilitatis signis latet. Nescio enim, honors and titles as such that are 

quomodo turpiora sunt vitia, quae forbidden, but the inordinate desire 

for them. 

70 SIN 

This vice frequently accompanies wealth, high social po 
sition, noble birth, etc., and sometimes develops into 
tyranny, nay rebellion against God and self-deification. 7 
Arrogance often leads to boastfulness, which is the 
habit of bragging inordinately about one s own good 
qualities or talents, nay, even defects or sins, and to hy 
pocrisy, i. e., feigning virtues that one does not possess. 

Pride "is so serious an evil because it strikes 
at the root of the primary obligations of reverent 
obedience towards our Lord God and love of our 
neighbor, because it is opposed to the truth, and 
because of its universality; it is in the heart of 
every man and quickly grows to fearful dimen 
sions unless corrected or subdued." 8 

That there is a legitimate pride appears from I 
Cor. XV, 10 : "By the grace of God I am what I 
am, and the grace he gave me hath not been fruit 
less; nay, I have labored more than all of them, 
yet not I, but the grace of God with me." 9 Still 
the Apostle warns against "being more wise than 
it behooveth," 10 and "being wise in your own 
conceits." n 

Opposed to pride is the virtue of humility, 

7Cfr. Gen. Ill, 5; Is. XIV, 14; -fj %ctpis avrov ij els e/J.t ov KCV)) 

Judges VII, 2; IX, 38; i Mace. eyevrjOrj, d\\a Trepiff^repov avrwv 

VII, 34; 2 Mace. V, 21 ; Matth. IV, iravTuv eKoirlacra, OVK eyw de> dXXd 

9. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., 23. 97 xpts rou deov ffi>i> efAoi. 
aae, qu. 162; Ovid, Metamorphoses, 10 Rom. XII, 3, 16. 

VI, 193, sqq. ; Horace, Satyrae, I, 6, 11 i Tim. VI, 17. Cfr. Homer, 

5, 10, 64; IDEM, Epod., IV, 5 sq. Iliad, I, 244; Odyssey, IX, 20; Hor- 

8 Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of ace, Carmina, IV, 2, 40: "Sapere 
Moral Theology, Vol. I, p. 155.," i. e., boldly strive for wis- 

9 din 5e 6eov di & elfii, Kal dom. 


which keeps a man in his proper place both with 
respect to God and his fellowmen. Humility is 
highly recommended by our Divine Lord as 
the fundamental virtue of the Christian life, 
and He has set Himself up as a model thereof. 
Matth. XI, 29: "Learn of me, because I am 
meek and humble of heart." l2 

II. COVETOUSNESS. Covetousness or avarice 
(avaritia, philargyria) is an inordinate love of 
earthly things, an immoderate desire to possess, 
keep, and increase them (tenacitas). With re 
gard to no other sin is it so difficult to draw a line 
of demarcation between what is licit and what is 
forbidden as with regard to avarice, which loves 
to hide under the cloak of duty, frugality, and 
other virtues. It is sinful to attach one s heart 
to earthly goods, to serve Mammon instead of 
God, 13 to be niggardly toward one s fellowmen 
and unscrupulous in the choice of means to Sat- 
12 Cfr. Ecclus. X, 15; Matth. V, superbia, quam amor propriae excel- 
3; XVIII, 3; Luke XIV, i; John V, lentiae? . . . Qui ergo plene veri- 
14; James IV, 6. St. Bernard, tatem in se cognoscere curat, necesse 
Tract, de Gradibus Humilit. et Su- est ut semota trabe superbiae, quae 
perbiae, IV, n. 14 sq. : "Trabes in oculum arcet a luce, ascensiones in 
oculo grandis et grossa (Mt. vii, corde suo disponat, per quas seipsum 
5) superbia in mente est, quae qua- in se ipso inquirat, et sic . . . pri- 
dam corpulentia sui vand, non mum veritatis gradum pertingat." 
sana, tumida, non solida, oculum (Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 949). 
mentis obscurat, veritatem obum- 13 Cfr. Matth. VI, 21, 24; Eph. 

brat, ita ut, si tuam occupaverit V, 5; Col. Ill, 5. Cfr. St. Polycarp, 
mentem, iam tu te videre, iam te Epist. ad Philipp., c. 1 1 : Edy TIS 
talem, qualis es vel qualis esse potes, ^ aTre x^rai TTJS <j)i\apyvplas, vtrb 
non possis sentire, sed qualem te c^SajXoXarpetas fJHavdrjffTai Kal 
amas, talem te vel putes esse vel faffirepei tv rol edveaiv \oyiffOr}(T- 
speres fore. Quid enim aliud est rai, oi rti es dyvoovffiv 


isfy one s greed. Avarice leads to mendacity, 
deceit, perjury, treason, theft, and every other 
kind of injustice. 14 St. Paul no doubt had these 
consequences in mind when he censured avarice 
as "the root of all evils." 15 

Among the consequences of covetousness are insatia 
bility, discontent, fear of persecution and poverty, 16 and 
that "infatuation of self-love," as Blair calls it, which so 
often ends in impenitence. 17 

Ordinary sins of covetousness are in themselves venial, 
but become mortal if they lead to the transgression 
of precepts that bind under pain of grievous sin. Al- 

Kvpiov- (Ed. 23., F. X. Funk, p. 

i4Cfr. Gen. XXXI, 7; Ecclus. 
XXXI, 5-7; Is. V, 8; Jer. XXII, 
17; Am. VIII, 5-6; John XII, 4-6. 

15 i Tim. VI, io. Cfr. St. 
Thomas, Summa TheoL, la 2ae, qu. 
84, art. i. Sophocles, Antigone, 221 

16 Cfr. Matth. XIII, 22. Ps.-Au- 
gustine, Append. Serm., 293 (a/. 250 
de Temp.), n. i: "Contemnenda 
est, inquam, avaritia, quae velut 
ignis, quanta magis acceperit, tanto 
amplius quaerit." (Migne, P. L. t 
XXXIX, 2301). Horace, Carm., Ill, 
16, 17: "Crescentem sequitur cura 
pecuniam." IDEM, Satyrae, I, i, 28 
sqq. Juvenal, Satyrae, XIV, 28-29. 
When these pages were being pre 
pared for the printer, the Fort 
nightly Review (St. Louis, Mo., 
Vol. XXIV, No. 9) published the fol 
lowing: "Mrs. Hetty Green, who died 
not long ago, leaving an estate of 
about $100,000,000, according to tes 
timony filed in a surrogate s court by 
her son, lived under at least six as 
sumed names, and probably many 
others, hoping thus to elude sche 

mers who might be seeking her 
money, and murderous cranks, such 
as the one who tried to kill her 
friend Russell Sage. She never 
owned in New York so much as a 
three-legged stool in the way of fur 
nishings for what men call a home, 
and moved from one $10 to $15 
boarding-house to another, in con 
stant fear that her fellow-board 
ers would learn her identity. 
This immensely wealthy woman, 
who possessed the means to gratify 
her every whim, lived almost 
like a criminal dreading arrest. 
She dreaded to lose the very wealth 
which oppressed her, and the world s 
richest woman was perhaps more 
familiar with the fear of poverty 
than many a penniless clerk on the 
pay-roll of her estate. ... If she 
had labored to reduce her own for 
tune by wise and unselfish giving, 
her journey might have been more 
cheerful, for thus she might have 
escaped the limitations of poverty 
and at the same time divested herself 
of the heaviest burdens of wealth." 
17 Cfr. Luke XII, 15-21; i Tim. 
VI, 9. 


though covetousness is in itself but a venial sin, "yet it is 
very dangerous because of man s proneness to it, and 
because the vice is apt to grow fast by what it feeds upon, 
until it becomes mortally sinful. Holy Scripture fre 
quently condemns it and warns us against it." 18 

III. LUST. Lust (luxuria) 19 is an inordi 
nate desire for the pleasure which has its seat in 
the organs of generation. Sins of lust may be 
internal (thoughts and desires) or external 
(words and acts). In these sins there is no 
smallness of matter (parvitas materiae), but 
every act of wrongful indulgence in venereal 
pleasure, if directly sought or consented to, is 
grievously sinful. No sin against chastity is 
venial except that which remains internally 
incomplete (actus imperfectus) , not on account 
of outward circumstances, but because the will 

Not all sins against the Sixth and Ninth Command 
ments, therefore, are mortal. If an impure thought, 
word, or act is freely willed, or, a fortiori, if it is delib 
erately excited, it is a mortal sin. Not so if it arises 
in the mind against one s will or without one s deliberate 
consent. External acts, such as immodest touches, looks, 
etc., are mortally sinful if due to lust; they are venially 
sinful if due to curiosity or inadvertence, and transient 

18 Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of ma Theologica, 23. 2ae, qu. 153 sq.: 
Moral Theology, Vol. I, pp. 157 sq. St. Alphonsus, Theol. Moralis, 1. 
Cfr. i Tim. VI, 9, etc. Ill, n. 412 sqq. (ed. Gaude, Vol. I, 

19 Cfr. St. Thomas Aquinas, Sum- pp. 665 sqq.). 

74 SIN 

in character; and they are not sinful at all if performed 
for some reasonable cause, even though accompanied by 
venereal pleasure, provided, of course, no consent is given 
to such pleasure. 

1. Some sins of lust or impurity are according 
to the order of nature, others are against nature. 

a) Sins according to the order of nature (in 
or dine naturae) are all acts of sexual intercourse 
committed by unmarried persons, e. g. y fornica 
tion, concubinage, etc. 

b) Sins against the order of nature (contra or- 
dinem naturae) are those which frustrate the di 
vinely ordained purpose of sexual intercourse, 
e. g., onanism, self -pollution, pederasty, sodomy, 
etc. 20 

Certain sins of impurity derive additional grav 
ity from the attending circumstances, e. g., dou 
ble adultery, incest, fornication committed by per 
sons vowed to celibacy, 21 seduction practiced by 
persons in authority upon their subjects, etc. 

2. Lust or impurity is a sin which ought "not 
so much as be named" among Christians. 22 It 
involves most serious consequences for the indi^ 
vidual as well as for society. 

a) "Know you not," says St. Paul, "that your 

20 Cfr. Gen. XIX, s-7J XXXVIII, 21 Cfr. Gen. XIX, 31 sqq.; 

p; Ex. XXII, 19; Lev. XVIII, 22 XXVIII, 13 sqq.; 2 Kings XLI, 4; 

sq.; XX, 13, 15 sq.; Judg. XIX, 22 XIII, n sqq. Cfr. i Cor. VI, 

aqq.; Wisd. XIV, *6; Rom. I, 26 15, 19; St. Thomas, Summa Theol., 

q.; x Cor. V, x; VI, 9 sq.; i Tim. za. 2ae, qu. 154, art. 6-10. 

I, 9 gq. 22 i Cor. V, i ; Eph. V, 3. 


bodies are members of Christ? Am I then to 
take the members of Christ and make them the 
members of a harlot? God forbid! Or know 
you not that he that cleaveth to a harlot is one 
body [with her] ? The two/ it is said, shall be 
come one flesh/ But he that cleaveth to the Lord 
is one spirit [with him]. Flee from impurity. 
Every [other] sin that a man committeth is [a 
thing] outside the body; but the impure sinneth 
against his own body. Know you not that your 
body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is within 
you, whom you have from God? And you are 
not your own, for you have been bought at a price. 
Glorify God, then, in your body." 23 With every 
other sin (avarice, pride, anger, gluttony, etc.) 
either the object, or the means of its attain 
ment, lie outside of the subject, whereas in the 
case of impurity the sinner makes his own body 
the direct means of wrong-doing (materia pec- 
candi). This vice is especially offensive in a 
Christian whose body has been raised to the su 
pernatural order by Baptism. God has not only 
redeemed us from the servitude of the devil and 
ransomed us at a tremendous price (the life of 
His only begotten Son), but He has made us tem 
ples of the Holy Ghost and members of the mys 
tical body of Christ. For this reason impurity in 
a Christian involves a kind of sacrilege, a dese- 

23 i Cor. VI, 15 sqq. (Westminster Version). 

76 SIN 

cration of the temple of God and a violation of the 
property rights of Jesus Christ. 24 

These considerations will explain why of all 
the capital sins impurity is most injurious to the 
body and the moral character. 

b) Impurity not only causes concupiscence to 
grow stronger, 25 but leads to self-deception, in 
constancy in the keeping of good resolutions, in 
difference toward considerations of honor and 
property, intemperance in eating and drinking, 
disgust for spiritual things, dread of eternity, 
hatred of God, unbelief, and suicide. 26 The ef 
fects of this vice on the bodily and spiritual health 
of its victims and the welfare of their descendants 
are incalculable. "Sexual intercourse outside of 

24 Rom. Ill, 23-25; i Cor. Ill, vera. Ita duo committit maxima 
16; VI, 13; Eph. V, 30; i Thess. crimina, opprobria carnis et mentis 
IV, 7 sq.; i Pet. I, 18 sq. sacrilegia." (P. L., XVI, 1182). 

25 Cfr. St. Jerome, Epist., 123 St. Bernard, In Cant., s. 39, n. 7: 
(a/, n), n. 14: "Libido transacta "Luxuriae currus quadriga nihil- 
semper sui relinquit poenitudinem; ominus volvitur, ingluvie videlicet 
nunquam satiatur et extincta reac- ventris, libidine coitus, mollitie we* 
cenditur. Usu crescit et deficit; nee stium, otii soporisque resolutions, 
rationi paret, quae impetu ducitur." Trahitur equis aeque duobus, pro* 
(Migne, P. L., XXII, 1055). speritate vitae et reruin abundantia, 

26 Os. IV, 1 1 ; 2 Kings XI, 4 et quis his praesident duo, ignaviae 
sqq.; XIII, n sqq. ; Prov. V, i torpor et infida securitas." (P. L., 
sqq.; XXIX, 3; Ecclus. XIX, 2 sq.; CLXXXIII, 980). St. Thomas, 
Luke XV, 13, 30. St. Ambrose, Summa Theol., 23 2ae, qu. 153, art. 
Epist., 27, n. 2\ "Opus virtutis de- 5: "Per vitium luxuriae maxime ap- 
testatur luxuriosus, heluo refugit. petitus inferior, scilicet concupisci- 
Aegyptium itaque corpus, quod ille- bilis, vehement er intendit suo obiec- 
cebras diligit, adversatur animae to, scilicet delectabili, propter vehe- 
virtutes, abominatur imperium, refu- mentiam passionis et delectationis. 
git virtutum disciplinas et omnia Et idea consequens est, quod per 
opera, quae huiusmodi sunt." luxuriam maxime superiores vires 
(Migne, P. L., XVI, 1047). IDEM, deordinentur, scilicet ratio et volun- 
Epist., 58, n. 16: "Ubi coeperit tas." J. Gerson, De Examinatione 
quis luxuriari, incipit deviare a fide Doctr., P, I, consid. 6 (.Opera, I, 


marriage/ says a modern penologist, "is the 
cardinal crime from which, directly or indirectly, 
most other crimes spring." 27 There is an inti 
mate connection between lust and cruelty, espe 
cially rape and murder. 28 

"It is vanity to follow the lusts of the flesh and 
to desire that for which thou must afterwards 
be grievously punished. . . . For they who fol 
low sensuality, defile their conscience and lose 
the grace of God," says Thomas a Kempis. 29 

IV. ENVY. Envy (invidia) is defined as sad 
ness on account of another s good (tristitia de 
alienis bonis). To be sad because an unworthy 
man has obtained a post of honor or wealth, of 
which he is sure to make wrong use, or to which 
we ourselves have a better claim, or which will be 
employed to our disadvantage, is not envy. Such 
sadness generally results from shortsightedness 
or a mistaken idea of Providence; but it does 
not exclude charity; in fact there is a species 

18) : "Sicut nulla affectio est vehe- "Nam fuit ante Helenam cunnus de- 
mentior quam luxuriosa libido, sic terrima belli causa. . . ." 

ad errandum fahumque docendum 28 Cfr. Ez. XVI, 49; Am. II, 7. 

nulla pernidosior." Jos. Miiller, Die Keuschheitsideen 

27 Beneke, Gef dngnisstudien, p. in Hirer geschichtlichen Entwicklung 

54. Horace says (Cam., Ill, 6, 17 und praktischen Bedeutung, May- 

sqq.): ence 1897, pp. 152 sqq. 

"Fecunda culpae saecula nuptias l . Cfn 

Primum inquinavere et genus et . J. Auer O. Praem., De Vrtute 

Castitatts, eiusque Lacsiombus, Inns- 

Hoc derivata clades ruck .1920; P Merkelbach, O.P., 

In patriam populumque fiuxit" 

Cfr. the same writer s Satyrae t 
Book III, 3, 107 sq.: 

78 SIN 

of sadness which is extolled as a virtue. Cfr. Ps. 
CXVIII, 136: "My eyes have sent forth springs 
of water, because they have not kept thy law." 
Matth. V, 5 : "Blessed are they that mourn, for 
they shall be comforted." 2 Cor. VII, 9 sq.: 
"Now I am glad, not because you were made sor 
rowful; but because you were made sorrowful 
unto penance. For you were made sorrowful ac 
cording to God. . . ." 30 Sadness combined with 
selfishness, however, is always sinful because in 
compatible with, nay directly opposed to, charity. 
The envious man seeks to injure his neighbor 
rather than advantage himself, whereas charity 
inclines us to rejoice in the wellbeing of others. 
Through the envy of the devil sin and death came 
into this world. 31 Envy inspired the first re 
corded murder and the crucifixion of Christ. 32 
It is the lowest form of selfishness because it aims 
solely at destruction. This vice is mortally sin 
ful in itself, but admits of a parvitas materiae. 

Envy engenders hatred, revenge, malignant joy at the 
misfortunes of others, calumny, slander, and crimes 
against life and property. 33 More than any other vice 
envy entails its own punishment, for it destroys peace of 
mind and sometimes even injures the body. 34 Sacred 

30 Cfr. St. Augustine, Serm., 254 32 Cfr. Matth. XXVII, 18; i Cor. 

(a/. 151 de. Temp.), n. 2; St. X, 24; XIII, 4 sqq.; Gal. V, 26. 
Thomas, Summa Theol, 2a 2ae, qu. 33 Matth. XXVII, 18-25; cfr. 

36, art. 1-4. Gen. IV, 8; XXVI, 14 sq.; XXVII, 

si Cfr. Gen. Ill, i; IV, 5; Wisd. 41; XXXVII, 4, ". 
II, 24. 34 Matth. XXVII, 18-25. Cfr. 

Gen. IV, 5-6; XXXI, 2-5. 


Scripture graphically compares this vice to "rottenness of 
the bones" 35 and intimates that it consumes its victim 
body and soul. 36 

V. GLUTTONY. Gluttony (gula) is an in 
ordinate desire for earthly goods in general and 
food and drink in particular. 37 Man is expected 
to use food and drink according to right reason. 
Inordinate use of these things (as if they were 
an end in themselves), degrades him to the 
level of the brute. Besides this grosser form 
of gluttony (voracitas, ingluvies, ebrietas), there 
is a more refined though equally sinful variety, 
which consists in craving for food and drink 
solely for the pleasure they give and making them 
the principal object of one s thoughts and desires 
(cupedia). This epicurean gourmandise (syba 
ritism), like the grosser forms of gluttony, con 
fuses the end with the means. Saint Paul says 
of those addicted to it that their "God is their 
belly." 38 

A very common form of gluttony is drunkenness 
(ebrietas). Complete drunkenness (ebrietas perfecta) 
temporarily deprives man of the use of his highest pre 
rogatives reason and free-will. Voluntarily to put one- 

35 Prov. XIV, 30. quo bonum virtutis moralis consistit. 

36 Wisd. VI, 25. Ex hoc autem dicitur aliquid esse 

37 Cfr. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., peccatum, quod virtuti contrariatur. 
23. 2ae, qu. 148, art. i: "Gula non Unde manifestum est, quod gula est 
nominal quemlibet appetitum edcndi peccatum." 

et bibendi, sed inordinatum. Dicitur 33 Phil. Ill, 19; cfr. Rom. XVI, 

autem appetitus inordinatus c.r eo, 18. 
quod recedit ab or dine rationis, in 

8o SIN 

self into this condition is, as a rule, mortally sinful. Sins 
committed in the state of drunkenness are morally im- 
putable (voluntarium in causa) unless indeed one could 
truthfully claim, like Noe, that he knew not the strength 
of wine. To drink to excess, but not so as to lose the use 
of reason, is per se a venial sin, but may become mortally 
sinful per accidens, e. g. } on account of serious harm to 
one s health, grave scandal, neglect of important duties, or 
when a man knows that excessive drinking is for him a 
proximate occasion of grievous sin. 

The sinful character of intemperance in all its forms 
is evident from the consequences to which this vice leads. 
It involves a senseless destruction of food and drink, of 
which others may stand in need, and injures both body 
and soul by exciting the animal appetites, especially lust, 
blunting the moral judgment, warping the finer sensibili 
ties, and ultimately destroying all interest in spiritual 
things. 39 

39 Cfr. Gen. XXV, 29-34; Is. V, quis est, inagnus est; magnlficet no- 

ii, 22; Am. VI, 6; Prov. XX, i; men tuum. Ego autem non sum, 

XXIII, 29-35; Eph. V, 18. St. quia peccator homo sum." (Migne, 

Augustine, Confessiones, X, c. 31, n. P. L., XXXII, 798, 799). Cfr. Ps.- 

44: "Quum salus sit causa edendi Augustine, Append. Serm., 294 

et bibendi, adiungit se tamquam pe- (al. 231 de Temp.), n. 2-3 (P. L., 

dissequa periculosa iucunditas et XXXII, 2304). St. Bernard, Epist., 

plerumque praeire conatur, ut elus II, n. 10: "Quomodo potest esurire 

causa fiat, quod salutis causa me fa- vel sitire Christum plcnus quotidie 

cere vel dico Tel volo. Nee idem siliquis porcorum? Non poles bibcre 

modus utriusque est, nam quod sa- simul calicem Christi et calicem 

luti satis est, delectationi parum est." daemoniorum (i Cor. X, 20). Calix 

Ibid., n. 47: "In his ergo tenta- daemoniorum siiprrbia est, calix 

tionibus positus certo quotidie adver- daemoniorum detractio et invidia 

sus concupiscentiam manducandi et est, calix daemoniorum crapula et 

bibendi; non enim est, quod semel ebrietas est; quae quum impleverint 

praecidere et ulterius non attingere vel tnentem vel ventrem tuum, 

decernam. Itaque freni gutturis Christus in te non invent t locum." 

temperata relaxatione et constric- (Migne, P. L., CLXXXII, 85). 

tione tencndi sunt. Et quis est, Terence, Eunuch., IV, 5, 6: 

Domine, qui non rapiatur aliquantu- "Sine Cerere et Libero [Baccho] 

lum extra metas necessitatisf Quis- friget Venus." Ovid, Rem. Am., 


Drunkenness as a habit (ebriositas) is deserving of the 
severest censure, because it involves waste, destroys fam 
ily life, creates dissensions, causes crimes and diseases, 
and entails the physical and moral ruin of individuals, 
and sometimes of entire nations. "Drunkenness," says 
Origen, "seduced him whom Sodom had not seduced." 40 
Hence the Apostle s admonition : "Be not drunk with 
wine, wherein is luxury; but be ye filled with the holy 
Spirit." 41 

VI. ANGER. Anger (ira, iracundia), broadly 
speaking, is a craving for vengeance. It is not 
necessarily sinful, because, to quote St. Thomas, 
"vengeance may be sought either well or ill." 42 

a) There is a righteous anger which inveighs 
against evil and in favor of goodness. Holy 
Scripture frequently attributes such anger to 
God. John the Baptist angrily denounced the 
Pharisees and Sadducees as a "brood of vipers," 
who "flee from the wrath to come." 43 "With 
anger" (^ <w^) and grief "for the blindness of 
their hearts," 44 Christ pronounced woe upon 
the Pharisees, 45 drove the money changers from 
the temple and overthrew their tables. 46 Filled 

805 sqq. Seneca, Epist., 95, 23: The Cure of Alcoholism, St. Louis 

"Innumcrabilcs esse morbos non 1913. 

mirabcris: coquos numera." 41 Eph. V, 18; cfr. Luke XXI, 

40Cfr. Gen. XIX, 32 sqq.; Prov. 34; i Pet. V, 8. 

XXXI, 4. Homer, Odyssey, IX, 42 Summa Theol., 23. aae, qu. 158, 

360 sqq; Iliad, VI, 258 sqq. Hor- art. 1-7. 

ace, Carm., Ill, 21, 9 sqq. A. Eg- 43 Matth. Ill, 7. 

ger, Der Klerus und die Alkohol- 44 Mark III, 5. 

frage, 4th ed., Freiburg 1909. Jos. 45 Matth. XXXIII, 13 sqq. 

Keating, S.J., The Drink Question, 46 Matth. XXI, 12. 
London 1914. Austin O Malley, 

82 SIN 

with righteous indignation St. Peter invoked the 
judgment of God upon Ananias and Saphira, 47 St. 
Stephen rebuked the Jews for resisting the Holy 
Ghost, 48 and St. Paul upbraided the Athenians. 49 
Righteous anger is no sin, and parents and su 
periors are justified in reprehending and punish 
ing their children or subjects for a just cause. 
"If one is angry according to right reason," says 
the Angelic Doctor, "then to get angry is praise 
worthy." 50 

b) To be angry, even for a just cause, be 
comes sinful when a man loses control of himself 
and indulges in feelings of hatred or enmity. 
This is true a fortiori when anger lacks a just 
cause. Note, however, that as long as anger 
remains internal, it is as a rule not sinful, but 
merely a temptation. Only when it vents itself 
in oaths or blasphemies, or leads to acts of vio 
lence and destruction, is it more or less grievously 

Man is bound under pain of mortal sin to keep the 
mighty passion of anger under control. "Be angry and 
sin not," says St. Paul, "let not the sun go down upon 
your anger ; give not place to the devil." 51 The meaning 
obviously is that man should not permit his anger to ex- 

47 Acts V, 3 sqq. Tract, in Epist. loa., VII, n. n: 

48 Acts VII, 51 sqq. "Amor saevit, caritas saevit; saevit 

49 Acts XVII, 1 6 sqq. quodammodo sine felle, more co- 

50 Summa Theol., 2a 2ae, qu. 158, lumbino, non corvino." (Migne, 
art. i: "Si aliquis irascitur secun- P. L., XXXV, 1235). 

dum rationem rectam, tune irasci est 51 Eph. IV, 26 sq. 

laudabile." Cfr. Saint Augustine, 


ceed the bounds of reason, nor nurse grievances. 52 St. 
James says : "Let every man be swift to hear, but slow 
to speak, and slow to anger ; for the anger of man worketh 
not the justice of God." 53 

VII. SLOTH. Sloth (acedia) is frequently 
caused by an abnormal condition of the body. It 
may be defined as a sluggishness of the soul that 
makes it dread physical and mental labor in the 
exercise of virtue. Sloth, as a vice, may be ac 
companied by great energy of mind and body in 
matters not pertaining to the spiritual domain. 
Sloth usually begins with lukewarmness, espe 
cially neglect of prayer and religious exercises. 
It manifests itself: 

(1) As indifference to virtue and spiritual 
things (desidia, inertia), accompanied by distrac 
tion and neglect of duty and by pleasure in senti 
mentalities and day-dreaming. The ordinary 
symptoms of this form of sloth are: mental un 
rest, frequent change of work or profession, shif t- 
lessness, inconstancy, etc. 

(2) As disgust (taedium) for the moral and 
religious duties which every man is bound to per 
form. This disgust may develop into positive 
aversion for Catholic principles and practices and 

B2 Cfr. St. Augustine, Enarr. in fieri pridiana. Eiice illam [iram] 

Ps-, 25, s. z, n. 3 (Migne, P. L., de corde, antequam occidat lux ista 

XXXVI, 189): "Etsi ex ipsa hu- visibilis, ne te deserat lux ilia in- 

mana conditione et infirmitate mor- visibilis." (Migne, P. L., XXXVI, 

talitatis, quam portamus, subrepit ira 189). 

Christiana, non debet diu teneri et 63 Jas. I, 19 sq. 

84 SIN 

regret of having been received into the Church. 
At this stage sloth is generally accompanied by 
loss of courage and results in spiritual and mor 
al decay. 

Sloth is a mortal sin whenever it leads to the 
neglect of duties to which one is obliged sub gravi. 
The dire consequences of religious indifference 
are adumbrated in the Apocalypse : "I know thy 
works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I 
would thou wert cold or hot ! But because thou 
art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will 
begin to vomit thee out of my mouth." 54 

"Think not that one who falls deeply, strikes bottom 
at once. Do you wish to learn the cause? For a long 
time this man was very lukewarm, and as a consequence 
his soul lost strength unnoticed, while the evil inclinations 
grew stronger." 5l5 

READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., la, 2ae, qu. 84, art. 2 
sq. IDEM, De Malo, qu. 8 sqq. Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of 
Moral Theology, Vol. I, pp. 154 sqq. O. Zockler, Das Lehrstilck 
von den sieben Hauptsunden, Munich 1893. Ph. G. Laborie, Les 
Pechcs Capitaux, Paris 1908. A. Tanquerey, Synopsis Theol. 
Mor. et Pastor., Vol. II, pp. 287 sqq. Natalis Alexander, De 
Peccatis (Migne, Theol. Curs., XI, 707-1168). Paulhan, Les 
Caracteres, Paris 1903. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theol. Mor., 
Vol. I, nth ed., pp. 375 sqq. Sabetti-Barrett, Comp. Theol. Mor., 
22nd ed., pp. 129 sqq. A. Vermeersch, S.J., Theol. Mor., Vol. I, 
pp. 418 sqq. 

54 Apoc. Ill, 15 sqq.; cfr. Matth. noverca virtutum." (Migne, P. L., 

XXV, 26 sqq. St. Bernard, De CLXXXII, 756). 
Consideratione, II, c. 13: "Fu- 55 John Cassian, Collationes, VI, 

gienda est otiositas, mater nugarum, 17* 



There are four sins that are said to cry to 
heaven for vengeance, viz.: (i) Wilful murder; 
(2) Sodomy; (3) Oppression of the poor; (4) 
Defrauding laborers of their hire. 

The Schoolmen enumerate these sins in the 
following distich : 

Clamitat ad caelum vox sanguinis et sodomorum, 
Vox oppressorum, merces detenta laborum. 

This classification is based upon Scripture. 
Gen. IV, 10 : "The Lord said to Cain: . . . What 
hast thou done? the voice of thy brother s blood 
crieth to me from the earth." Gen. XVIII, 20 
sq. : "The Lord said: The cry of Sodom and 
Gomorrah is multiplied, and their sin is become 
exceedingly grievous." Gen. XIX, 13 the angels 
tell Lot that they will destroy Sodom, "because 
their cry is grown loud before the Lord, who hath 
sent us to destroy them." Ex. Ill, 7 Jehovah 
says to Moses : "I have seen the affliction of my 
people in Egypt, and I have heard their cry be 
cause of the rigor of them that are over the 


86 SIN 

works." According to Ex. XXII, 22 sq. the 
Mosaic law prescribed: "You shall not hurt a 
widow or an orphan," adding: "If you hurt 
them they will cry out to me, and I will hear their 
cry." Deut. XXIV, 14 sq. : "Thou shalt not re 
fuse the hire of the needy and the poor . . . ; but 
thou shalt pay him the price of his labor the same 
day, before the going down of the sun, because 
he is poor, and with it maintaineth his life: lest 
he cry against thee to the Lord, and it be reputed 
to thee for a sin." James V, 4: "Behold the 
hire of the laborers, who have reaped down your 
fields, which by fraud has been kept back by you, 
crieth : and the cry of them hath entered into the 
ears of the Lord of sabaoth." 

If we study the nature of the sins thus charac 
terized as crying to Heaven for vengeance, we 
find that they form a category separate and dis 
tinct from the capital sins. For whereas the lat 
ter spring from an inordinate craving of the nat 
ural appetites, and are sinful only when they 
involve a lack of rational self-control, the distin 
guishing note of the so-called peccata clamantia 
is violent suppression of certain natural instincts 
and conscious frustration of their ends and ob 
jects. In other words, besides a trangression 
of the moral order, they entail a violation of 
the laws of nature, thus provoking divine wrath 
in a special manner. This fact is well expressed 


in the phrase, "sins that cry to Heaven for ven 

It goes without saying that every sin of this kind is 
by its very nature mortal because it involves the trans 
gression of an important law with full advertence and 

The sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance vio 
late or suppress ( i ) the instinct of self-preserva 
tion, which tends to conserve individual life; (2) 
the sexual instinct, which was instituted for the 
perpetuation of the race; and (3) the social in 
stinct, which tends to the protection of private 

a) MURDER is the unlawful killing of a human 
being with malice aforethought. This sin may be 
direct or indirect, it may be committed against 
oneself (suicide) or against another, even the 
unborn (procuratio abortus, malicious destruc 
tion of the embryo or fetus). 1 The term murder 
includes every species of unnatural cruelty, 
such as exposing a child to the danger of death, 
maltreating prisoners and slaves, engaging in 
piracy, waging war without sufficient reason, and 
killing another in the intellectual or moral sense, 
/. e., robbing him of his good name by slander or 

The unlawful killing of a human being with malice 
aforethought is a terrible crime because it interferes 

1 Cfr. Codex luris Can., can. 2350, i. 

8$ SIN 

with the sovereignty of God, who is the Master of life 
and death and has created man as His own image and 
property, 1 and because it undermines the foundation 
of society and brings upon its victim the greatest temporal 
misfortune and sometimes even causes his eternal dam 
nation. Justly, therefore, is cold-blooded murder pun 
ished by death (capital punishment). 

Murder is often committed for petty motives, such as 
revenge, jealousy, or avarice. The gravity of this crime 
may be judged by the fact that murderers often become 
their own accusers. 

b) SODOMY is the sin for which Sodom and 
Gomorrah were destroyed by God. The term in 
cludes all kinds of unnatural copulation, particu 
larly when committed between persons of the 
same sex, and all practices aiming at the pre 
vention of conception. 2 Sodomy is closely re 
lated to murder. Both crimes are directed 
against the preservation of the human race, and, 
moreover, cruelty and lust, heartlessness and de 
bauchery, bloodthirst and unchastity (Sadism, 
Masochism) usually go hand in hand. 3 

Holy Scripture condemns the conduct of Onan, not 

1 Gen. I, 26 sq.; IX, 6; Deut. (crudelitas activa) and Masochism 

XXXII, 39. {crudelitas passiva) cfr. Familler, 

2Cfr. Gen. XIX, 5; XXXVIII, Pastoralpsychiatrie, Freiburg 1898, 

9; Lev. XVIII, 22; XX, 13; pp. 157 sq.; Krafft-Ebing, Psychopa- 

Judges XIX, 22 sqq. ; Rom. I, 26 thia Sexualis, i3th ed., pp. 158 sqq. ; 

sq. ; i Tim. I, 10. A. Eulenburg, Sadismus und Maso- 

3 Cfr. Ez. XVI, 49J Am. II, 7. chismus, Wiesbaden 1902; O Malley 

H. Rau, Die Grausamkeit mit be- and Walsh, Essays in Pastoral Medi- 

son^erer Bezugnahme auf sexuelle cine, New York 1906, pp. 338 sq. 

Faktoren. Berlin 1003. On Sadism F. a Barbens, Intr. Pat hoi. ad Stud. 

Theol. Mor., pp. 255 sqq. 


only because he had a wicked intention, but "because he 
did a detestable thing." * 

c) OPPRESSION OF THE POOR, especially of 
widows and orphans, is a dastardly crime be 
cause it violates the natural law and runs counter 
to a sentiment deeply ingrained in the human 
heart. This crime is committed in various ways, 
by dishonestly administering an estate, by fraud 
in drawing up a man s last will, by unjust ap 
propriation of that which belongs to the poor, by 
the employment of trickery in lawsuits, bribing 
judges and other officials, etc. 5 

WAGE is a crime against the fundamental right 
of private property. It is the sin of oppression 
of the poor in an aggravated form, for it injures 
those who are compelled to make a living in 
the sweat of their brow. This sin is perhaps 
more often committed indirectly than directly, 
e. g., by carelessly incurring bankruptcy, by re 
ducing wages without necessity, by cooperating 
in the establishment of monopolies or trusts, by 
adulterating food or raising its price without ne- 

4 Gen. XXXVIII, 7 sqq.J I affluent in tantam eruperat super- 

Paralip. II, 3. biam, ut manum egeno et pauperi 

els. X, 1-2; Matth. XXIII, 15; Lazaro non porrigeret, et sic oblitus 

Mark XII, 40. Cfr. St. Jerome, sit conditions suae, ut ne hoc qui- 

In Beech., V, c. 16: "Dives ille in dem misero daret, quod proiicien- 

evangelio purpuratus (Luc. XVI, dum erat." (Migne, P. L., XXV, 

19) nihil aliud refertur habuisse 154). 
criminis nisi quod opibus et divitiis 

90 SIN 

cessity ("profiteering"), by practicing usury, 6 by 
defrauding workingmen of their earnings, by 
compelling them to purchase their supplies at ex 
orbitant prices in company stores (truck system), 
and in many other ways. 

We shall have more to say of these sins in later 

READINGS. F. X. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch der Moraltheologie, 
pp. 180 sqq. J. A. Ryan, A Minimum Wage, New York 1906. 
IDEM, Distributive Justice, New York 1916. Th. Slater, S.J., 
Questions of Moral Theology, New York 1915, pp. 78 sqq.; 176 
sqq. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theol. Mor., Vol. I, pp. 391 sqq. 

6 Cfr. C. Elliot, Usury Millersburg, O., 1902; P. Cleary, The Church 
and Usury, Dublin, 1914. 



I. NAME. Broadly speaking, every sin is a 
sin against the Holy Ghost, because every sin is 
opposed to sanctity, of which the Holy Ghost is 
the author. But the name "sin against the Holy 
Ghost" is specifically applied to a certain class of 
transgressions described in Holy Scripture. 
When the Pharisees attributed the miracles 
of Christ to the devil, Our Lord declared: 
"Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, 
but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be for 
given ; and whosoever shall speak a word against 
the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him : but he 
that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall 
not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in 
the world to come." l Here is a clear distinction 
between blasphemy against the Son of man, i. e., 
Jesus Christ, and blasphemy against the Holy 
Ghost. To be scandalized at the former in His 
lowly human appearance is pardonable, 2 but to 
blaspheme the Holy Spirit, who manifests Him- 

1 Matth. IX, 34; XII, 24, 31 sq.; 2ae, qu. 14, art. i, ad 2: "Pecca- 
Mark III, 28-30; Luke XII, 10. turn in filium hominis erit peccatum 

2 Matth. XI, 4; cfr. Matth. XXVI, ex ignorantia vel ex infirmitate." 
31. St. Thomas, Summa Theol, 2a 


92 SIN 

self through the miracles of Christ, is a sign of 
malice and obstinacy and therefore unpardonable. 
2. DEFINITION. Hence there is a class of 
transgressions which may be embraced under 
the collective term, "sin against the Holy Ghost/ 
They all involve a deliberate and obstinate oppo 
sition to the manifestations of the Holy Spirit as 
witnessed in the exercise of Christ s power over 
nature and the demons, and continued in the mira 
cles of grace. He still works in the souls of the 
faithful. Consequently, the sin against the Holy 
Ghost consists in openly opposing divine Revela 
tion and the operation of the Holy Spirit both in 
and outside of man, more particularly in deliber 
ately despising or rejecting supernatural grace. 
And as the Holy Ghost operates in souls espe 
cially through the theological virtues of faith, 
hope, and charity, the sin against the Holy Ghost 
is opposed to these three virtues in particular. 
With this idea in mind, St. Augustine and Peter 
Lombard enumerated six distinct sins against 
the Holy Ghost, which may, however, be reduced 
to one, i. e., deliberate apostasy or final impeni 
tence (impoenitentia finalis) . 3 The other five are 

3 Cfr. Is. XXII, 14. St. Jerome, mia, quae non remittetur neque in 

In Is., VII, c. 22 (Migne, P. L., hoc saeculo neque in futuro. Contra 

XXIV, 272). St. Augustine, Serm., Spiritum enim sanctum, quo bap- 

71 (a/, ii De Verbis Domini), c. 12, tisantur, quorum peccata omnia di- 

n. 20: "Contra hoc donum gratui- mittuntur, et quem accepit Ecclesia, 

turn, contra istam Dei gratiam lo- ut cui dimiserit peccata, dimittantur 

quitur cor impoenitens. Ipsa ergo ei, verbum valde malum et nimis 

impoenitentia est Spiritus blasphe- impium, sive cogitatione sive etiam 



merely preliminary acts of impenitence, which 
may be forgiven, whereas final impenitence is by 
its very nature unpardonable (peccatum irremis 
sibile) 4 not because it is beyond the reach of di 
vine mercy, or on account of its objective enorm 
ity, but because the impenitent man deliberately 
rejects grace. He who sins against the Holy 
Ghost cannot obtain forgiveness for the simple 
reason that he refuses to be forgiven. 5 

lingua sua dicit, quern patientia Dei, 
quum ad poenitentiam adducat, ipse 
secundum duritiam cordis sui et cor 
impoenitens thesaurisat sibi iram in 
die irae, et revelationis iusti iudicii 
Dei, qui reddet unicuique secundum 
opera eius (Rom. ii, 4-6). Haec 
ergo impoenitentia, sic enim uno 
aliquo nomine possumus utcunque 
appellare et blasphemiam et verbum 
contra Spiritum sanctum, quod remis- 
sionem non habet in aeternum." 
(Migne, P. L., XXXVIII, 45 5>. St. 
Thomas, Summa Theol., 23. 2ae, qu. 
14, art. i. 

4Cfr. Matth. XII, 31 sq.; i John 
V, 16; Heb. VI, 4-6; X, 26; 2 Pet. 
II, 20. Chr. Pesch, S.J., Praelect. 
Dogmat., Vol. I, 3rd ed., p. 586. 

6 Cfr. John VIII, 21, 24; Rom. 
II, 4-8. St. Augustine, De Serm. 
Dom. in Monte, I, c. 22, n. 74: 
"Ista differentia peccatorum ludam 
tradcntem a Petro negante distinguit, 
non quia poenitenti non sit \gnoscen- 
dum, . . . sed quia illius peccati 
tanta labes est, ut deprecandi hu- 
militatem subire non possit, etiamsi 
peccatum suum mala conscientid 
et agnoscere et enuntiare coga- 
tur." (Migne, P. L., XXXIV, 
1266). St. Bonaventure, Brevil., 
P. Ill, c. ii : "Quia directe 
impugnat gratiam Spiritus Sancti, 

per quam fit remissio peccati, idea 
dicitur irremissibile, non quia nullo 
modo possit remitti, sed quia quan 
tum est de se, directe est impugna- 
tivum medicamenti et remedii, per 
quod fieri habet remissio peccati." 
(Ed. 2a, Vicetia, 233). St. Thomas, 
Summa Theol., 2a 2ae, qu. 14, art. 
3: "Secundum diversas acceptiones 
peccati in Spiritum Sanctum diversi- 
mode irremissibile dicitur. Si enim 
dicatur peccatum in Spiritum Sanc 
tum finalis impoenitentia, sic dicitur 
irremissibile, quia nullo modo remit- 
titur. Peccatum enim mortale, in 
quo homo perseverat usque ad mor 
tem, quia in hoc vita non remittitur 
per poenitentiam, nee etiam in fu- 
turo dimittetur. Secundum autem 
alias duas acceptiones dicitur irre 
missibile, non quod nullo modo re 
mit tatur, sed quia, quantum est de se, 
habet meritum, ut non remittatur, et 
hoc dupliciter. Uno modo quantum 
ad poenam; qui enim ex ignorantia 
vel infirmitate peccat, minorcm poe 
nam meretur, qui autem ex certa 
malitia peccat, non habet aliquam 
excusationem, unde eius poena mi- 
nuatur. Similiter etiam, qui blasphe- 
mabat Filium hominis, eius divinitate 
nondum revelata, poterat habere ali 
quam excusationem propter infirmi- 
tatem carnis, quam in eo aspiciebat, 



The sins against the Holy Ghost according to the Cate 
chism are: (i) Presumption of God s mercy; (2) De 
spair; (3) Resisting the known Christian truth; (4) 
Envy at another s spiritual good; (5) Obstinacy in sin; 
and (6) Final impenitence. 

This division is popular rather than scientific, but it cor 
rectly describes the psychological stages of the malice that 
leads to final impenitence. The so-called sin against the 
Holy Ghost, therefore, is not a single sin but the sum-total 
of a bad life. 6 At what stage actual impenitence sets in, 
God alone knows. 7 The Church assumes that every 

et sic minorem poenam merebatur. 
Sed gui in ipsam divinitatem bias- 
phemabat, opera Spiritus Sancti 
diabolo attribuens, nullam excusa- 
tionem habebat, unde ems poena di- 
tninueretur. . . . Alio modo potest 
intellegi quoad culpam. Sicut ali- 
quis dicitur morbus incurabilis se- 
cundum naturam morbi, per quent 
tollitur id, per quod morbus potest 
curari, puta quum morbus tollit vir- 
tutem naturae vel inducit fastidium 
cibi et medicinae, licet talent mor- 
bum Deus possit curare, ita etiam 
peccatum in Spiritum Sanctum dici 
tur irremissibile secundum suam na 
turam, inquantum excludit ea, per 
quae fit remissio peccatorum. Per 
hoc tamen non praecluditur via re- 
mittendi et sanandi omnipotentiae 
et misericordiae Dei, per quam ali- 
quando tales quasi miraculose spi- 
ritualiter sanantur." 

6 Cfr. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., 
23, 2ae, qu. 14, art. 4: "Peccare in 
Spiritum Sanctum uno modo est pec- 
care ex certa malitia. Ex certa 
autem malitia dupliciter peccare con- 
tingit. Uno modo ex inclinatione 
habitus, quod non est proprie pec 
care in Spiritum Sanctum, et hoc 
modo peccare ex certa malitia non 
contingit a principio. Oportet enim 

actus peccatorum praecedere, ex qui- 
bus causetur habitus ad peccandum 
inclinans. Alio modo potest aliquis 
peccare ex certa malitia abiciendo 
per contemptum ea, per quae homo 
retrahitur a peccato, quod proprie 
est peccare in Spiritum Sanctum. 
Et hoc etiam plerumque praesuppo- 
nit alia peccata. . . . Potest tamen 
contingere, quod aliquis in primo 
actu peccati in Spiritum Sanctum 
peccet per contemptum, turn propter 
libertatem arbitrii, turn etiam propter 
multas dispositiones praecedentes vel 
etiam propter aliquod vehemens mo- 
tivum ad malum et debilem affectum 
hominis ad bonum. Et ideo in viris 
perfectis hoc vix out nunquam ac- 
cidere potest, quod statim a prin 
cipio peccent in Spiritum Sanctum. 
. . . Si vero per peccatum in 
Spiritum Sanctum intellegatur finalis 
impoenitentia secundum intellectum 
Augustini, quaestionem non habet, 
quia ad peccatum in Spiritum Sanc 
tum requiritur continuatio peccato 
rum usque in finem vitae." 

7 St. Augustine, Serm,, 71 (a/, n 
De Verbis Domini), c. 13, n. 21: 
"1st a impoenitentia vel cor im- 
poenitens quamdiu quisque in hac 
carne vivit, non potest iudicari. De 
nullo enim desperandum est, quam- 


man wishes to die in the state of grace. St. Augustine 
says that as long as there is life there is hope, that "the Al 
mighty Physician knows no incurable disease," and while 
grace has a chance to work, no sinner need be given up. 8 
A man may be addicted to some evil passion or vice, 
though morality, faith, contrition, and penance are by no 
means extinct in his soul. Conversely, he may be in the 
state of impenitence without having entirely relinquished 
the practice of religion and virtue, for he may keep up a 
semblance of piety out of selfishness or hypocrisy. . . . 
On the other hand, there is a state of the soul which logi 
cally and psychologically, though only by gradual and 
almost unnoticeable stages, superinduces complete im 
penitence. As every sin committed by a Catholic re 
ceives added gravity from the fact that it is the act of 
one who possesses the true faith and has access to the 
means of grace, so the sin against the Holy Ghost begins 
with an abuse of divine truth and grace, with resistance 
to the inspirations that come from above, especially the 
call to conversion or to a more perfect state of life. This 
initial stage is followed by habitual neglect of the duties 
of one s vocation, and, finally, by sacrilegious reception 
of the Sacraments. 9 

diu patientia Dei ad poenitentiam P. L., XXXVI, 370). Ibid., 102, n. 
adducit nee de hoc vita rapit im- 5: "Sanabuntur omnes languor es 
pium, qui non mortem vult impii, tui, noli timere. Magni sunt, in- 
quantum ut revertatur et vivat." quies, sed maior est medicus. 
(Migne, P. L., XXXVIII, 456). Omnipotenti medico nullus languor 
IDEM, De Catech. Rud., c. 26, n. 50: insanabilis occurrit." (Migne, P. L., 
"De nullius hominis corrections XXXVII, 1319). IDEM, Serm., 128 
desperet, quern patientia Dei videt (al. 43 De Verbis Dom.), c. 12, n. 
vivere, non ob aliud, sicut Aposto- 14: "De nullo iacente desperan- 
lus (Rom. II, 4) ait, nisi ut adduca- dutn est sub tali suscitatore." 
tur ad poenitentiam." (P. L., XL, (P. L., XXXVIII, 720). Cfr. 
345). Serm., 17 (al. 28 inter Horn. 50), n. 

8Cfr. St. Augustine, Enarr. in 3 (P. L., XXXVIII, 125). 
Ps., II, 36, n. n : "De nullo vi- 9 F. X. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch dcr 

vente desperandum est," (Migne, Moraltheologie, pp. 183 sq. 

9 6 SIN 

3. DEVIL WORSHIP. Sometimes the sin 
against the Holy Ghost culminates in a deliberate 
and complete surrender of the soul to the evil 
one, resulting in actual devil worship. 10 The 
leading characteristic of this terrible sin is hatred 
of God, which manifests itself in deadly antago 
nism to all that is good, joy in evil things, a 
burning desire to seduce others and to commit 
sin for its own sake. 11 Devil worship is the 
climax of human malice and embraces all the 
capital vices, the sins that cry to Heaven for ven 
geance, and especially those by which a man 
becomes accessory to the sins of others. Some 
times the soul sinks so low as to enter into a 
formal union with the powers of darkness 
(demonism, deification of evil). This relation 
is, as a rule, purely moral, but it may develop into 
a mystic marriage of the human mind with 
Satan, accompanied by a desire to employ dia 
bolic help in unraveling the mysteries of life and 
eternity (astrology, fortune-telling, necromancy) 
or performing feats that exceed the ordinary 
powers of nature (black magic, sorcery). 12 

READINGS. St. Augustine, De Serm. Domini in Monte, I, c. 
22. IDEM, Enchiridion, c. 83. IDEM, Sermones, 71 (al. n De 
Verbis Domini), c. 13, 14, 21. Richard of St. Victor, Tractatus 

10 Cfr. Matth. XII, 43 sqq. ; John Germania, XIX: "Corrumpere et 
VI, 70; VIII, 44; XIII, 2; i John corrumpi saeculum vocatur." 

Ill, 8, 10. 12 "Fleet ere si nequeo super os, 

11 Cfr. Gen. IV, 3-5, 8; Is. V, 20; Acheronta movebo." (Aeneis, VII, 
i John III, 12-13. Cfr. Tacitus, 312). 


de Spiritu Blasphemiae (Migne, P. L., CXCVI, 1885). Peter 
Lombard, Sententiarum Libri Quatuor, II, dist. 43. St. Thomas, 
Summa Theologica, 2a 2ae, qu. 14. IDEM, De Malo, qu. 3, art. 
14 sq. St. Bonaventure, Breviloquium, P. Ill, c. n. M. Ger- 
bert, De Peccato in Spiritum Sanctum, Blasii 1766. J. I. Hoff 
mann, Die Siinde und Sundcn gegen den hi. Geist, Ratisbon 
1847, pp. 16 sqq. Alex, ab Oettingen, De Peccato in Spiritum 
Sanctum, Dorpat 1856, pp. 49 sqq. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa 
Theol. Mor., Vol. I, pp. 393 sqq. J. Knabenbauer, S.J., Comment. 
in Quatuor S. Evangelia, Paris 1892, Vol. I, pp. 487 sqq. J. 
Forget in the Cath. Encyclopedia, Vol. VII, pp. 414 sq. 






The moral order originally established by God 
was, as we have seen, disturbed by the sin of our 
first parents and restored by Jesus Christ. The 
principle of its restoration in general, and of the 
moral regeneration of each human individual in 
particular, is supernatural grace. 1 

i. We can acquire no supernatural merits 
without grace. 

a) Reason enables man to perceive the truths 
of the natural order. For the knowledge of 
the supernatural truths, however, he needs a 
stronger light. 2 "The human intellect," says 
St. Thomas, "has a form, namely, intelligent 

l Cfr. John I, 17; Rom. V, 20 sq.; Cfr. Pohle-Preuss, Grace, 2nd ed., 
2 Cor. V, 19-21; Eph. II, 8-10. St. Louis 1917. 

2 i Cor. XIII, 3; 2 Cor. Ill, 5. 




light, which of itself is sufficient for knowing cer 
tain intelligible things, namely, those we can come 
to know through the senses. Higher intelligible 
things the human intellect cannot know unless it 
be perfected by a stronger light, viz.: that of 
faith or prophecy, which is called the light of 
grace, inasmuch as it is added to nature." 3 Nor 
is it the intellect alone that depends on God for its 
operation ; but the will also. No man can will or 
perform a supernaturally good act except by the 
aid of a higher power ; 4 nor can any man, with 
out this power (which we call divine grace), 
love God above all things 5 or keep the com- 

3 Summa Theol., xa 2ae, qu. 109, 
art. i : "Intellectus humanus habet 
aliquam formam, scilicet ipsum in- 
tellegibile lumen, quod est de se 
sufRciens ad quaedam intellegibilia 
cognoscenda, ad ea scilicet, in quo 
rum notitiam per sensibilia possu- 
mus devenire. Altiora vero intelle 
gibilia intellectus humanus cogno- 
scere non potest nisi fortiori lumine 
perficiatur, sicut lumine fidei vel 
prophetiae, quod dicitur lumen gra- 
tiae, inquantum est naturae super- 
additum. Sic igitur dicendum est 
quod ad cognitionem cuiuscunque 
veri homo indiget auxilio divino, tit 
intellectus a Deo moveatur ad suutn 

4Cfr. Rom. IX, 16; Phil. II, 13. 
St. Augustine, De Corrept. et 
Grat., c. 2, n. 3: "Intellegenda est 
gratia Dei per lesum Christum Do* 
minum nostrum, qua sola homines 
liberantur a malo et sine qua nullum 
prorsus sive cogitando sive volendo 
tt amando sive agenda faciunt bo- 
num, non solutn ut monstrante ipsa 

quid faciendum sit sciant, verum 
etiam ut praestante ipsa faciant cum 
dilectione, quod sciunt." (Migne, 
P. L., XLIV, 917). St. Thomas, 
Summa Theol., la 2ae, qu. 109, art. 
2: "In utroque statu [naturae in- 
tegrae et corruptae] indiget homo 
aurilio divino, ut ab ipso moveatur 
ad bene agendum." Cfr. Prop. Baii 
Damnat., prop. 37: "Cum Pelagio 
sentit, qui boni aliquid naturalis, hoc 
est, quod ex naturae solis viribus 
ortum ducit, agnoscit." Prop. 65: 
"Nonnisi Pelagian o err ore admitti 
potest usus aliquis liberi arbitrii 
bonus sive non mains, et gratiae 
Christi iniuriam jacit, qui ita sen- 
tit et docet." (Denzinger-Bann- 
wart, n. 917, 945). Cfr. J. Ernst, 
Die Werke und Tugenden der Un- 
gldubigen nach St. Augustin, Frei 
burg 1871, pp. 19 sqq. 

5 Cfr. Rom. V, 5. St. Thomas, 
Summa Theol., la sae, qu. 109, art. 
2, n. 3 : " Homo in statu naturae 
integrae non indigebat dono gratiae 
superadditae naturalibus bonis ad 



mandments perfectly, 6 or attain eternal salva 
tion. 7 

b) God is the immediate principle of all 
supernatural operation, including that by which 

diligendum Deum naturaliter supra 
omnia, licet indigeret auxilio Dei ad 
hoc eum moventis, sed in statu na 
turae corruptae indiget homo etiam 
ad hoc auxilio gratiae naturam sa- 

6 Cfr. John XV, 4 sq. St. Au 
gustine, De Haeres., 88: "Pelagi- 
ani in tantum inimici sunt Dei, 
gratiae, ut sine hac posse hominem, 
credant facer e omnia divina man- 
data." (Migne, P. L., XLII, 47)- 
St. Thomas, Summa Theol., la aae, 
qu. 109, art. 4: "Implere mandata 
legis contingit dupliciter. Uno modo 
quantum ad substantiam operum, 
prout scilicet homo operatur iusta 
et fortia et alia virtutis opera, et 
hoc modo homo in statu naturae in- 
tegrae potuit omnia mandata legis 
implere ; alioquin homo non potuisset 
in statu illo non peccare, quum nihil 
aliud sit peccare quant transgredi 
divina mandata; sed in statu naturae 
corruptae non potest homo implere 
omnia mandata divina sine gratia 
sanante. Alio modo possunt impleri 
mandata legis non solum quantum 
ad substantiam operis, sed etiam 
quantum ad modum agendi, ut scili 
cet ex caritate fiant; et sic neque in 
statu naturae integrae neque in 
statu naturae corruptae potest homo 
implere absque gratia legis man 
data. . . . Indigent insuper in utro- 
que statu auxilio Dei moventis ad 
mandata implenda." 

7 Cfr. Rom. VI, 23: To -^apiCfjia 
rov Qeov fwrf al&vios ev Xptcrrw 
Ir/ffov r(a Kvpiw fmtiv. St. Thomas, 
Summa Theol., la 2ae, qu. 109, art. 
5: "Vita aeterna est finis excedcns 
proportionem naturae humanae, et 

ideo homo per sua naturalia non pot 
est producere opera meritoria pro- 
portionata vitae aeternae, sed ad hoc 
exigitur altior virtus, quae est virtus 
gratiae. Et ideo sine gratia homo 
non potest mereri vitam aeternam." 
IDEM, Summa contra Gentiles, III, 
c. 148, n. 2, 3 : "Res inferioris 
naturae in id quod est proprium 
superioris naturae non potest perducj 
nisi virtute illius superioris naturae, 
sicut luna quae ex se non lucet, fit 
lucida virtute et actione solis, et 
aqua quae per se non calet, fit calida 
virtute et actione ignis. [And dogs 
and horses, parrots and monkeys, 
learn tricks by contact with man, 
which they never would have learnt 
in their wild state. And savages 
are civilized by coming in contact 
with a culture higher than their own, 
but for which contact with a higher 
race they would have remained 
perennial savages. As man human 
izes the brute, and civilizes his sav 
age brother, so does God divinize 
man. Jos. Rickaby, S.J., Of God 
and His Creatures, London 1905, p. 
319]. Videre autem ipsam primam 
veritatem in seipsa [in which pre 
cisely eternal beatitude consists] ita 
transcendit facultatem humanae na 
turae, quod est proprium solius Dei. 
Indiget igitur homo auxilio divino 
ad hoc quod in dictum finem [i. e., 
ad beatitudinem~\ perveniat. Una- 
quaeque res per operationem suam 
ultimum finem consequitur. Opcra- 
tio autem virtutem sortitur ex prin- 
cipio operante, unde per actionem 
seminis generatur aliquid in deter- 
minata specie, cuius virtus in semine 
praeexsistit. Non potest igitur homo 



man prepares himself for the reception of 
grace. Hence divine grace is indispensably 
necessary for this preparation. 8 This is all 
the more evident when it is considered that God 
alone had it in His power to redeem mankind 
after the fall, to restore the moral order, and 
to forgive the eternal punishment incurred by 
sin. 9 Even if put in the state of grace man can 
not remain therein without continuous help 
from his Maker. Hence it is quite true to say 
that man can do nothing towards securing his 
salvation except by the grace of God. 10 In this 

per operationem suam pervenire in 
ultimum finem suum, qui transcendit 
facultatem naturallum potentiarum, 
nisi eius operatic ex divina virtute 
efficaciam capiat ad finem praedic- 

8 John VI, 44; XV, 5. Cfr. Cone. 
Trident., Sess. VI, can. 3: "Si 
quis dixerit, sine praeveniente Spi- 
ritus Sancti inspiratione atque eius 
adiutorio hominem credere, sperare, 
diligere out poenitere posse, sicut 
oportet, ut ei iustificationis gratia 
conferatur, anathema sit." St. 
Thomas, Summa Theol., la 2ae, qu. 
109, art. 6: "Hoc est praeparare se 
ad gratiam quasi ad Deum converti, 
sicut ille, qui habet oculum aversum 
a lumine solis, per hoc se praeparat 
ad recipiendum lumen solis, quod 
oculos suos convertit versus solem. 
Unde patet, quod homo non potest se 
praeparare ad lumen gratiae susci- 
piendum, nisi per auxilium gratui- 
tum Dei interius moventis." 

9 Gal. II, 21. Cfr. Cone. Arausic. 
II., can. 14: "Nullus miser de 
quacimque miseria liberatur, nisi qui 
Dei misericordid praevenitur." 

Can. 19: "Quum \_natura humana} 
sine Dei gratia salutem non possit 
custodire, quam accepit, quomodo 
sine Dei gratia poterit reparare, 
quod perdiditf" (Denzinger-Bann- 
wart, n. 187, 192). St. Augustine, 
Enarr. in Ps., 95, n. 5: "Vendere 
se [homines] potuerunt, sed redi- 
mere non potuerunt." (Migne, P. 
L., XXXVII, 1231). St. Thomas, 
Summa TheoL, xa 2ae, qu. 109, art. 
7: "Homo nullo modo potest resur- 
gere a peccato per seipsum sine 
auxilio gratiae. Quum enim pec- 
catum transiens actu remaneat reatu, 
non est idem resurgere a peccato 
quod cessare ab actu peccati, sed 
resurgere a peccato est reparari ho 
minem ad ea quae peccando amisit. 
. . . Et idea requiritur auxilium 
gratiae ad hoc t quod homo a peccato 
resurget, et quantum ad habituate 
donum et quantum ad interiorem 
Dei motionem." Cfr. Seneca, Epist., 
52, 2: "Nemo per se satis valet, ut 

10 Phil. II, 13. Cone. Arausic. 
II., can. 9: "Divini est munerif, 
quum et recte cogitamus et pedes 



sense it has been truly said that the only thing 
man can do is to sin. 11 

2. The process of justification, by which a sin 
ner is restored to the friendship of God, cannot 
take place without grace. It was in man s power 
to offend God, but it is not in his power to redeem 
himself. 12 The omnipotent Creator alone can 
revive a dead soul. 13 Reconciled to the human 
race by the atonement, in which His only Son 

nostros a falsitate et iniustitia con- 
tinemus; quoties enim bona agimus, 
Deus in nobis atque nobiscum, ut 
operemur, operatur." Can. 10: 
"Adiutorium Dei etiam renatis ac 
sanctis semper est implorandum, ut 
ad finem bonum pervenire, vel in 
bono possint opere perdurare." 
(Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 182, 183). 
Cfr. Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, can. 
22 (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 832). 
St. Thomas, Summa Theol., la 2ae, 
qu. 109, art. 8-10. 

11 St. Augustine, Contra Duos 
Epist. Pelagian., Ill, c. 8, n. 24: 
"Liberum arbitriutn captivatum 
nonnisi ad peccatum valet, ad iu- 
stitiam vero nisi divinitus liberatum 
adiutumque non valet." (Migne, 
P. L. t XLIV, 607). IDEM, De Cor- 
rept. et Grat., c. u, n. 31: "Li- 
berum arbitrium ad malum sufficit, 
ad bonum autem parum est nisi ad- 
iuvetur ab omnipotenti bono." (P. 
L., XLIV, 935). Cfr. St. Thomas, 
Comment, in Sent., II, dist. 28, qu. 
i, ad 4: "Secundum fidem catho- 
licam in media contrariarum haere- 
sum incedendum est, ut scilicet di- 
camus, hominem per liberum arbi 
trium et bona et mala facere posse, 
non tamen in actum meritorium 
exire sine habitu gratiae." 

12 St. Augustine, Enarr. in Ps., 
95, n. 5: "Vendere se potuerunt 
[homines], sed redimere non potue 
runt. Venit redemptor et dedit pre- 
tium; fudit sanguinem, emit orbem 
terrarum." (Migne, P. L., XXXVII, 
1231). Cfr. the same author s Ser- 
mones, 20, n. i (P. L., XXXVIII, 

13 St. Augustine, Epist., 155 (a/. 
52), c. i, n. 2: "Neque facit bea- 
tum hominem, nisi qui facit ho 
minem." (Migne, P. L., XXXIII, 
667). IDEM, Contra lulian., I, c. 
105: "A peccatis omnibus, sive 
originalibus sive moralibus, vel quae 
facta sunt, vel ne fiant, non liberat 
nisi gratia Dei per lesum Christum, 
Dominum nostrum, in quo regenerati 
sumus et a quo didicimus orando di- 
cere non solum: Dimitte nobis de- 
bita nostra, id est, quia peccavimus, 
verum etiam: ne nos inferas in 
tentationem, id est, ne peccemus." 
(P. L., XLV, 1 1 19). IDEM, En- 
chirid., c. 48, n. 14: "Illud unum 
peccatum [originate] . . . non solvi- 
tur ac diluitur, nisi per unum media- 
torem Dei et hominum, Christum 
lesum (i Tim. ii, 5), qui solus po- 
tuit ita nasci, ut ei opus non esset 
renasci." (P. L. t XL, 255). Cone. 
Trident., Sess. VI, can. i. 


gave up His life for the love of men, 14 God justi 
fies the individual sinner by infusing sanctifying 
grace into his soul and forgiving him his sins. 15 
The first requisite of justification, therefore, is 
divine grace, and the moral regeneration of 
the sinner is God s work, a work more wonder 
ful than the creation of heaven and earth, be 
cause grace implies a participation of the creature 
in the divine nature and consequently transcends 
all natural agencies. 16 

READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, la 2ae, qu. 110- 
114. Pohle-Preuss, Grace, Actual and Habitual, 2nd ed., St. 
Louis 1917, pp. 272 sqq. A. Rietter, Die Moral des hi Thomas 
von Aquin, Munich 1858, pp. 275 sqq. J. H. Newman, Lectures 
on the Doctrine of Justification, 8th impression, London 1900. J. 
M. Capello, S.J., Tract. Canonic o-Moralis de Sacramentis, Vol. I, 
Turin 1921. 

i4Cfr. Matth. XX, 28; XXVI, 16 Cfr. Ps. CXLIV, 9- St. Au- 

28; Mark X, 45; XIV, 24; Luke gustine, Tract, in loa., 72, n. 3: 

XXII, 19; Rom. V, 10 ; 2 Cor. V, "Prorsus mains hoc [opus] esse 

18 sq. ; Eph. II, 16; Col. I, 20; i dixerim, quam est caelum et terra et 

Tim. II, 6; Tit. II, 14; i Pet. I, quaecunque cernuntur in caelo et in 

18 sq.; II, 24. terra. Et caelum enint et terra 

15 Cfr. i Cor. VI, n; Tit. Ill, transibit (Mt. xxiv, 35), praedesti- 

5-7. Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, c. natorum autem, id est, eorum quos 

7: "lustificatio . . . non est sola praescivit, salus et iustificatio per- 

peccatorum remissio, sed et sancti- manebit. In illis tantum opera Dei, 

ficatio et renovatio interioris ho- in his autem etiam est imago Dei." 

minis." Can. u: "Si quis dixerit, (Migne, P. L. f XXXV, 1823). The 

homines iustificarl vel sola imputa- Roman Missal contains this oration 

tione iustitiae Christi, vel sold pec~ for the tenth Sunday after Pente- 

catorum remissione, exclusa gratia et cost: "Deus, qui omnipotentiam 

caritate, quae in cordibus eorum per tuam parcendo maxime et miserando 

Spiritum Sanctum diffundatur atque manifestos, multiplies super nos mi- 

illis inhaereat, . . . anathema sit." sericordiam tuam," etc. 
(Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 799-, 821). 



Though "the justification of the sinner is 
brought about by God moving man to justice," 1 
moral regeneration in the case of adults is not a 
compulsory, much less a magical process, but 
one that takes place in a manner corresponding to 
human nature, i. e., by the free cooperation of the 
will with grace. 2 

1 Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, can. 
1-3. Cfr. Saint Thomas, Summa 
Theol., la 2ae f qu. 113, art. 3: 
"lustificatio impii fit Deo movente 
hominem ad iustitiam. Ipse enim 
est, qui iustificat impium (Rom. Hi, 

2 St. Augustine, Serm., 169 (al. 
15 de Verbis Apost.), c. n, n. 13: 
"Esse protest institia Dei sine volun- 
tate tua. sed in te esse non potest 
praeter volnntatem tuam. . . . Qui 
fecit te sine te, non te iustificat sine 
te. Ergo fecit nescientem, iustifi 
cat volentem." (Migne, P. L., 
XXXVIII, 923). The Angelic Doc 
tor continues as follows in the pas 
sage quoted above (Summa Theol. , 
ja sae, qu. 113, art. 3): "Deus au- 
tem movet omnia secundum modum 
uniuscuiusque, sicut in naturalibus 
videmus, quod aliter moventur ab 
ipso gravia et aliter levia propter 
diversam naturam utriusque. Unde 

et hominem ad iustitiam movet se 
cundum conditionem naturae hu- 
manae. Homo autem secundum 
propriam naturam habet quod sit 
liberi arbitrii. Et ideo in eo qui ha 
bet usum liberi arbitrii non fit motio 
a Deo ad iustitiam absque motu li 
beri arbitrii, sed ita infundit donum 
gratiae iustificantis, quod etiam simul 
cum hoc movet liberum arbitrium ad 
donum gratiae acceptandum in his 
qui sunt huius motionis capaces." 
Contra Gent., 1. 3, c. 148, n. 2: "Di~ 
vinum auxilium sic intellegitur ad 
bene agendum homini adhiberi, quod 
in nobis nostra opera operatur, sicut 
causa prima operatur operationes 
causarum secundarum et agens prin- 
cipale operatur actionem instrumenti 
(Is. XXVI, 12). Causa autem prima 
causat operationem causae secundae 
secundum modum ipsius. Ergo et 
Deus caissat in nobis nostra opera 
secundum modum nostrum, qui est 




Justification, therefore, presupposes a rational 
creature endowed with free-will and voluntarily 
subjecting itself to God. 3 This movement of the 
will towards God takes place by faith, 4 which 
turns the soul away from sin and directs it to 
wards God. 5 

Because concupiscence remains in the soul even 

ut voluntarie et non coacte agatnus. 
Non divino igitur auxilio aliquis 
cogitur ad recte agendum." 

3 Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, can. 
4: "Si quis dixerit, liberum ho- 
minis arbitrium a Deo motum et ex- 
citatum nihil cooperari assentiendo 
Deo excitanti atque vocanti, quo ad 
obtinendam iustificationis gratiam se 
disponat ac praeparet, neque posse 
dissentire, si velit, sed veluti inanime 
quoddam nihil omnino agere, mere- 
que passive se habere, anathema sit," 
(Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 814). 

4 St. Thomas, Summa Theol., ia 
aae, qu. 113, art. 4: "Motus liberi 
arbitrii requiritur ad iustificationem 
impii, secundum quod mens hominis 
moi etur a Deo. Deus autem movet 
animam hominis convertendo earn 
ad seipsum (Ps. LXXXIV, 7). Et 
idea ad iustificationem impii requiri 
tur motus mentis, quo convertitur in 
Deum. Prima autem conversio in 
Deum fit per fidem (Hebr. XI, 6). 
Et idea motus fidei requiritur ad iu 
stificationem impii." 

6 St. Thomas, Summa Theol., ia 
zae, qu. 113, art. 5: "lustificatio 
impii est quidam motus, quo humana 
mens movetur a Deo a statu pec- 
cati in statum iustitiae. Oportet 
igitur, quod humana mens se habeat 
ad utrumque e.vtremorum secundum 
motum liberi arbitrii, sicut se habet 
corpus localiter motum ab aliquo mo- 
t-ente ad duos terminos motus. 
Manifestum est autem t in motu lo- 
cali corporum, quod corpus motum 

recedit a termino a quo et accedit 
ad terminum ad quern. Unde opor- 
tet, quod mens humana, dum iusti- 
ficatur, per motum liberi arbitrii re- 
cedat a peccato et accedat ad iusti- 
tiam. Recessus autem et accessus 
in motu liberi arbitrii accipitur se 
cundum detestationem et desiderium. 
. . . Oportet igitur, quod in iustifi- 
catione impii sit motus liberi arbitrii 
duplex: unus, quo per desiderium 
tendat in Dei iustitiam, et alius, quo 
detest etur peccatum." Ibid., art. 6: 
"Quattuor enumerantur, quae re- 
quiruntur ad iustificationem impii, 
scilicet gratiae infusio, motus liberi 
arbitrii in Deum per fidem et motus 
liberi arbitrii in peccatum et remissio 
culpae." Ibid., art. 7: "Tota iu- 
stificatio impii originaliter consistit 
in gratiae infusione. Per earn enint 
et liberum arbitrium movetur et cul- 
pa remittitur." Cone. Trid., Sess. 
VI, cap. 6: "Ilium [Deum] tam- 
quam omnis iustitiae fontem diligere 
incipiunt [peccatores ], ac propterea 
moventur adversus peccata per odi 
um aliquod et detestationem." 
Cap. 7: "Hanc dispositionem seu 
praeparationem iustificatio ipsa con- 
sequitur, quae non est sola pecca- 
torum remissio, sed et sanctificatio 
et renovatio interioris hominis per 
voluntariam susceptionem gratiae et 
donorum, unde homo ex iniusto fit 
iustus, et ex inimico amicus, ut sit 
haeres secundum spem -vitae aeter- 
nae (Tit. Hi, 7)." ( 
Bannwart, n. 798, 799). 


after this moral regeneration, 6 man must fight 
all his life against the enemies of his eternal 
salvation and endeavor to secure it by obedience 
to the commandments, by prayer and abstinence, 
by works of faith, hope, and charity, in a word, 
he must strive unremittingly to grow "in the 
knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect 
man, unto the measure of the age of the fulness 
of Christ." 7 Though the struggle may at times 
seem well nigh hopeless, God s grace makes vic 
tory still possible. "In all these things we 
overcome, because of Him that hath loved us," 
say the Tridentine Fathers, 8 and add: "God 
forsakes not those who have been once justified 
by His grace, unless He be first forsaken by 
them." 9 

The necessity of cooperating with grace is illustrated 
in the parable of the man who failed to watch for 

6 Rom. VII, 23; Gal. V, 17; Jas. cooperante fide bonis operibus, cres- 

I, 14; cfr. Cone. Trident., Sess. V, cunt atque magis iustificantur." 

can. 5. (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 803). 

7Eph. IV, 13, 15; cfr. Matth. X, 8 Rom. VIII, 37; cfr. Matth. XI, 

34 sqq.; XVI, 24; XIX, 17; XXVI, 30; i John V, 3. St. Augustine 

41; Rom. V, i sqq.; VII, 18 sqq.; 2 says in his treatise De Natura et 

Pet. I, 10. Cone. Trident., Sess. Gratia, c. 43, n. 50: "Nam Deus 

VI, cap. 10 : "Sic ergo iustificati, impossibilia non iubet, sed iubendo 

et amid Dei ac domestici Uoa. xv, monet et facere quod possis, et pe- 

15; Eph. ii, ip] facti, euntes de tere quod non possis." (Migne, 

virtute in virtutem [Ps. Ixxxiii, 8], P. L., XLIV, 271). The Council 

renovantur, ut Apostolus inquit de of Trent (Sess. VI, c. u) quotes 

die in diem [2 Cor. iv, i6\, hoc est, these words, and adds: "et adiuvat, 

mortificando membra carnis suae ut possis." (Denzinger-Bannwart, 

[Col. in, 5] et exhibendo ea arma n. 804). 

iustitiae [Rom. vi, 13, 79] in sane- 9 "Deus namque sua gratia semel 

tificationem: per observationcm man- iustificatos non deserit, nisi ab eis 

datorum Dei et Ecclesiae in ipsa prius deseratur." (Ibid.) 
iustitia per Christi gratiam accepta, 


the thief, 10 that of the faithful servant, 11 that of the wise 
and the foolish virgins, 12 that of the talents which the 
master gave to his servants, and others. 13 

Sanctifying grace is ordinarily attached to certain vis 
ible signs, called Sacraments, "through which," in the 
words of the Tridentine Fathers, " all true justice either 
begins, or being begun is increased, or being lost is re 
paired." 14 

These means of grace man is in duty bound to use, 
which is but another way of saying that he must submit 
himself to the Church established by Jesus Christ. 15 

READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theologlca, la 2ae, qu. 113. 
Pohle-Preuss, Grace, Actual and Habitual, 2nd ed., St. Louis, 
*9*7> PP- 274 sqq. Codex Juris Canonici, can. 731-1144. (In 
this work we have duly noted the changes made necessary by 
the new Code. A succinct statement of them will be found in 
A. Viladevall, Mutationes in Theologiam Moralem a Novo Codice 
Juris Canonici Inductae, Buenos Aires 1917, and in Alb. Schmitt, 
S.J., Supplementum to Noldin s Summa Theol. Mor., ed. 2a, New 
York, 1918). 

loMatth. XXIV, 43 sqq. 14 Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, can. 

11 Matth. XXV, i sqq. 20; Sess. VII, Prooem. 

12 Matth. XXIV, 45 sqq. is Cone. Trident., Sess. VII, De 

13 Matth. XXV, 14 sqq. Sacr., can. 4; De Bapt., can. 8 

(Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 847, 864). 





I. The efficacy of the Sacraments depends 
solely on the will of God, and hence all that is 
required for their valid administration on the part 
of the minister is power and jurisdiction, proper 
application of matter and form, and an actual or 
at least a virtual intention of doing what the 
Church does. 1 

It is a mortal sin for any one not in the state 
of sanctifying grace to administer a Sacra 
ment solemnly. Ignorance, of course, is an 
excuse, and so is urgent necessity, as when the 
administration of Baptism or Penance cannot be 
postponed without danger to the salvation of 
others. In such urgent cases the minister is 

1 Cone. Trident., Sess. VII, De De Poenit., can. 10 (Denzinger- 
Sacr., can. 10, u, 12; Sess. XIV, Eannwart, n. 853, 854, 855, 920). 



called minister necessitatis; in all others, minister 

Hence the general rule that no Sacrament 
should be performed or administered by one 
who is in the state of mortal sin. One who 
is so unfortunate as to be called upon to adminis 
ter a Sacrament in that state, should first cleanse 
himself by the worthy reception of Penance, if he 
can conveniently find a confessor (habitd copid 
confessor is)? or else by an act of perfect contri 

Matrimony is the only Sacrament that is not 
administered by the priest but by the contracting 
parties to each other, and hence husband and 
wife are themselves the ministers. 3 They should 
receive this holy Sacrament in the state of 
grace, which means, ordinarily, that they should 
go to confession and Communion before plighting 
their troth. 

In regard to the other Sacraments the question 
arises : If a priest who is in the state of mortal 
sin be called upon to administer a Sacrament, 
must he go to confession, or is perfect contrition 
sufficient ? We answer : Perfect contrition suf 
fices for all Sacraments except the Holy Eu 
charist (i. e., saying Mass). The reason is 

2 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIII, cap. 3 Cone. Trident., Sess. XXIV, De 

7, can. ii ; Rit. Rom., De Administr. Reform. Matr., c. i; Rit. Rom. t 

Sacram., tit. i, n. 4; Codex luris De Sacr. Matr., tit. 7, c. i, n. 17. 
Can., can. 807. 


this: Perfect contrition, including the votum 
sacramenti, restores sanctifying grace, and the 
administration of all the Sacraments, with the 
exception of the consecration of the Eucharist, is 
always, morally speaking, a matter of necessity. 
When the celebration of Mass is a matter of 
necessity, as sometimes happens, it will suffice for 
the priest to make an act of perfect contrition, but 
he is bound to receive the Sacrament of Penance 
as soon thereafter as an opportunity offers, i. e., 
at least within three days, according to the com 
mon interpretation of the law. 4 

It follows that all those who are ex officio en 
trusted with the administration of the means of 
grace, are in duty bound to hold themselves in 
readiness to administer the Sacraments, in other 
words, to be habitually in the state of grace. 5 

So much for the interior disposition of the minister. 
Now for the act of administration. As the minister 
acts in the name and by authority of the Church, 
the first rule is that he must comply with her directions. 
Sancta sancte tractanda. Hence it is a mortal sin know 
ingly to employ the wrong matter or form, or, except in 

4 Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, c. bitur." (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 

5-6. Missale Rom., De Defect. 1138 sq.). Cfr. Ferreres, Comp. 

in Cel. Missae, tit. 8, n. 2 sq. Theol. M., ed. 8a, Vol. II, n. 431, 

Prop. Damnat. ab Alexandra VII., qu. 5. 

38: "Mandatum Tridentini factum 5 Cfr. St. Augustine, Enarr. in 

sacerdoti sacrificanti ex necessitate Ps., CIII, s. i, n. 9: "Videanl, 

cum peccato mortali, confitendi qualem rationem habituri sunt cum 

quamprimum, est consilium, non Deo, qui sanctis non sancte utun- 

praeceptum."Prop. 39: "Hla par- tur." (Migne, Pat. La*., XXXVII, 

ticula quamprimum intellegitur, 1343). 
quum sacerdos suo tempore confite- 


case of necessity, a matter or form of doubtful validity ; 
since this would endanger the Sacrament. In cases of 
necessity (iusta causa) a doubtful matter or form may 
be employed, because the Sacraments are instituted for 
the sake of men (sacramenta propter homines). It is 
likewise sinful (mortally or venially, according to the 
circumstances of each case) to alter or mutilate the words 
of the form, to utter them inarticulately or without 
devotion, or to omit important rites or ceremonies pre 
scribed by the Church. If this is done out of contempt 
for Christ or the Church, or if it causes grave scandal, 
the minister commits a mortal sin, and even when the mo 
tive is mere negligence, a mortal sin is committed every 
time the object is materia gravis* 

2. The faithful have a right to the Sacraments, 
and hence all duly appointed ministers of the 
Church are bound in justice to administer the 
same whenever they are asked, and should al 
ways be ready and willing to comply with every 
reasonable request, nay exhort their people to 
make frequent use of the divinely appointed 
means of grace. 7 It is a mortal sin for a priest 
entrusted with the care of souls to refuse to ad 
minister a Sacrament without good reason, or to 
administer it with manifest reluctance. Such 
conduct is apt to deter the faithful from the re 
ception of the Sacraments and easily causes scan- 

6Cfr. Cone. Trident., Sess. VII, 7 Cfr. Concilium Trident., Sess. 

De Sacr., can. 13 (Denzinger-Bann- XXIII, De Ref., c. i; Rit. Rom., 

wart, n. 856) ; Rit. Rom., De Ad De Administr. Sacram., n. 5. 
ministr. Sacram., tit. i, n. u. 


dal. The duty of administering Baptism and 
Penance, in particular, binds even when there is 
danger of contracting a contagious disease or in 
curring grave risk to life or limb. 8 Of course, all 
reasonable precautions may and should be taken 
in such cases. The duty just mentioned does not 
bind priests who are not officially engaged in pas 
toral work, though all are bound to respond 
to urgent calls when there is grave necessity, 
as, e. g., on the field of battle, or when some 
one is seriously ill or dying and no other priest 
can be had. The same rule applies to a pastor in 
his conduct towards those not under his care. 
We need hardly add, however, that no true priest 
will confine himself to what is of strict duty in 
matters of this kind. 

It is forbidden (extra periculum mortis) to administer 
the Sacraments to persons who are notoriously unworthy 
(public e indigni), especially if these persons are excom 
municated by name, or are under an interdict, or if they 
lead a life of public infamy, e. g., prostitutes, fortune tell 
ers, concubinarians, and Freemasons publicly known as 
such, unless indeed they have done penance and repaired 
the scandal given. The reason for this prohibition is the 
danger of scandalizing the faithful and Christ s admoni 
tion not to give that which is holy to the dogs nor to cast 
pearls before swine. 9 

8 John X, 11-13. Benedict XIV, Sacramento, Tempore Pestis, May- 

De Synodo Dioecesana, XIII, c. 19, ence 1612. 

n . 8. Cfr. I. Chapeauville, Tract. 9 Matth. VII, 6. Cfr. i Tim. V, 

de Necessitate et Modo Ministrandi 22.Rit. Rom., De S. Eucharist. 


In applying this rule attention must be paid to the dis 
tinction between public and private sinners and to the 
nature of the request made. If the priest knows of the 
unworthiness of an applicant only by his official position, 
i. e., through the confessional, he is obliged to administer 
the Sacrament asked for, e. g., Holy Communion, be 
cause the preservation of the seal and the good name 
of the recipient are more important than regard for the 
sanctity of the Sacrament. Hence if a person who is 
guilty of secret sin should publicly demand a Sacrament, 
his demand must not be refused if there is danger of 
public defamation or grave scandal. The case is differ 
ent with public sinners and secret offenders who apply 
privately to the priest. To such (extra periculum mor 
tis) no Sacrament should be administered except Penance 
and, under certain conditions, Matrimony. 

To simulate a Sacrament, e. g., by administering an un- 
consecrated host, is never allowed, not even for the pur 
pose of preventing sacrilege or saving one s life. 10 To 
bless or pray over a penitent not properly disposed, in 
order to protect the secret of the confessional or the good 
name of the sinner, is not a simulatio or fictio sacramenti, 
and therefore permitted. 11 

READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, 33, qu. 60-90. 
St. Alphonsus, Theologia Moralis, 1. VI, tr. 1-5 (ed. Gaude, 
Vol. III). P. Schanz, Die Lehre von den hi Sakramenten, 
Freiburg 1893, PP- J 6i sqq. N. Gihr, Die hi. Sakramente der 
kath. Kirche, Vol. I, 2nd ed., Freiburg 1902, pp. 140 sqq. Chr. 
Pesch, S.J., Praelectiones Dogmaticae, Vol. VI, 3rd ed., pp. 98 
sqq. P. Pourrat, Theology of the Sacraments, 2nd ed., St. Louis 

Sacr., tit. 4, c. i, n. 8-9. Chr. was condemned by Pope Innocent 

Pesch, Praelect. Dogmaticae, Vol. XI (Prop. Damnat., n. 29; Denz.- 

VI, 3rd ed., pp. 126 sqq. Bannwart, n. 1179). 

10 The proposition: "Urgens me- H H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theol. 

tus gravis est causa iusta sacramen- Mor., Vol. Ill, nth ed., pp. 40 sq. 
forum administrationem simtilandi" 


1914. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. I, St. Louis 1915, pp. 
161 sqq. Wilhelm-Scannell, A Manual of Catholic Theology, 
Vol. II, 2nd ed., London 1901, pp. 366 sqq. J. E. Pruner, Lehr- 
buch der Pastoraltheologie, Vol. I, 2nd ed., Paderborn 1904, pp. 
94 sqq. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theol. Mor., Vol. Ill, nth ed., 
pp. 3 sqq. J. de Lugo, De Sacramentis in Genere, disp. 1-9. 
Ballerini-Palmieri, SJ., Opus Theol. Mor., 3rd ed., Vol. IV, n. 
642-710. A. Lehmkuhl, SJ., Theol. Moral, Vol. II, nth ed., 
pp. 1-43 Sabetti-Barrett, SJ., Comp. Theol. Mor., 22nd ed., pp. 
515 sqq. Th. Slater, SJ., A Manual of Moral Theology, Vol. 
II, pp. 15 sqq. 



Regarding the moral requisites of worthy re 
ception, a distinction must be drawn between 
what is necessary for the validity of a Sacrament 
and what is required for its licit and fruitful 

i. The valid reception of a Sacrament re 
quires : 

a) that the recipient be in the wayfaring state 
(in statu viatoris} ; 

b) that (if he be an adult) he have the wish to 
employ the Sacrament as a means of grace; 

c) that he be baptized. 

Baptism, according to an ancient saying, is the 
door to the supernatural life. No other Sacra 
ment can be validly received without it. 1 

As regards the necessary intention, this is sup 
plied by the Church for infants, insane and weak- 
minded persons, and adults who lack the full use 
of reason. 2 When there is question of adminis- 

1 Cfr. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacra- Giehr, Die hi. Sakramente, Vol. I, 

tnents, Vol. I, 2nd ed., pp. 238 sqq.; 2nd ed., pp. 158 sqq. 
Chr. Pesch, S.J., Praelect. Dogm., 2 Cfr. Matth. VIII, s-:o; XV, 

Vol. VI, 3rd ed., pp. 130 sqq.; N. 22-28; Mark IX, 16-26. 



tering Extreme Unction to an unconscious Cath 
olic, it may be presumed that the patient would 
wish to receive the Sacrament if he were in pos 
session of his faculties. Penance and Extreme 
Unction require an actual, or at least a virtual, 
intention; for the other Sacraments (Baptism of 
adults, Confirmation, Communion, and Holy 
Orders) a habitual intention is sufficient. 

2. For the licit and fruitful reception of Bap 
tism (in the case of adults) and Penance there is 
required in the subject faith, hope, and imperfect 
contrition (attritio). One who has lost sanctify 
ing grace after Baptism must regain it by a wor 
thy confession before he can worthily receive 
Holy Communion. 3 The reception of Penance is 
recommended, though not prescribed, as the best 
means of preparing for the other Sacraments of 
the living. To receive any of these Sacraments 
consciously in the state of mortal sin is a 
sacrilege and a more grievous sin than would be 
the administration of a Sacrament in the same 

Broadly speaking, the faithful are in duty 
bound to demand the Sacraments only from 
properly constituted ministers of good character. 
Every priest is to be regarded as worthy unless 
his unworthiness is certain and notorious. 

3 Cone. Trident., Sess. VI. c. zinger-Bannwart, n. 797, 798, 880, 
5-6; Sess. XIII, c. 7, can. n (Den- 893), 


READINGS. P. Schanz, Die Lehre von den hi. Sakramenten, 
Freiburg 1893, pp. 187 sqq. Chr. Pesch, S.J., Praelectiones Dog- 
maticac, Vol. VI, 3rd ed., pp. 130 sqq. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacra 
ments, Vol. I, pp. 191 sqq. Sabetti-Barrett, S.J., Com/>. Theol. 
Mor., 22nd ed., pp. 526 sqq. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theol. 
Mor., Vol. Ill, pp. 42 sqq. Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of Moral 
Theology, Vol. II, pp. 41 sqq. A. Lehmkuhl, S.J., Theol. Mor., 
Vol. II, pp. 37 sqq. 



I. BAPTISM. Since the coming of Christ Bap 
tism is "the laver of regeneration," 1 in which 
every man must be washed, either actually (in 
re), or at least in desire (in voto), in order to be 
saved. 2 

The necessity of Baptism, therefore, is a 
necessitas medii; but it is also a necessitas prae- 
cepti, on account of Christ s command to the 
Apostles to teach and baptize all nations. 3 

The precept of receiving Baptism obliges all 
who have the use of reason and are capable of 
receiving this Sacrament. 4 Nothing can dis 
pense from this duty except utter inability. 

a) Baptism being "the Sacrament of faith," 
is necessary for all men, including the children of 
Christian parents, and as an indispensable con 
dition of membership in the mystic body of 
Christ imposes certain well-defined duties. 

Parents and their representatives are bound 

iTit. Ill, 5. lect. Dogm., Vol. VI, 3rd ed., pp. 

2 John III, 5. Cone. Trident., 181 sqq. 

Sess. VI, c. 4; Sess. VII, De Bopt., 3 Matth. XXVIII, 19. 

can. 2 sqq. (Denzinger-Bannwart, 4 Cone. Trident., Sess. V, can. 4; 

n. 796, 858 sqq.) Cfr. Pesch, Prae- Sess. VI, c. 7 (Denzinger-Bannwart, 



under pain of grievous sin to have their children 
baptized as soon as possible after birth. To 
allow a child to die without Baptism is a mortal 
sin. As regards the time, due attention should 
be paid to approved custom and local eccle 
siastical regulations. Under the present dis 
cipline infants must be baptized as soon as 
it can conveniently be done. 5 Most theologians 
deem it a mortal sin to defer Baptism for more 
than a month without reasonable cause. It is 
safe to say that the reception of this most im 
portant Sacrament should not be postponed for 
more than a few days unless there be some very 
good reason for delay. 

The Rituale Romanum forbids a child to be 
baptized in utero matris on the ground that the 
Sacrament cannot be validly administered under 
such conditions. This prohibition is based on an 
assumption which has proved to be unfounded. 
With the means now at command it is possible to 
baptize an infant in utero, and therefore it should 
be done. If the head can be reached, the child 
should be baptized in the regular way, and the 
Baptism must not be repeated if the child is born 
alive; if the head cannot be reached but some 

n. 799); Rit. Rom., De Sacr. Bapt., Codex Juris Can., can. 770: "In- 

tit. 2, c. i, n. i. f antes quamprimum baptisentur; et 

> Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 2, qu. 33. parochi ac concionatores frequenter 

Decree of the Holy Office, of Jan. fideles de hoc gravi eorum obliga- 

n, 1899: "Urgcndum est, ut bap tione commoneant," 
tismus quam citius ministretur." 


other limb protrudes, the child should be baptized 
conditionally and rebaptized sub conditione after 
birth. 6 

Apparently still-born infants, and such as are 
incompletely developed (foetus abortivus) or 
abnormally shaped (monstra), should be condi 
tionally baptized if there is doubt whether they 
are dead or alive. 7 

In case a mother dies during pregnancy, the 
fetus should be carefully extracted from the 
womb and baptized, absolutely if it is certainly 
alive, conditionally if there be doubt. 8 

Infants should be baptized privately immedi 
ately after birth if there is reason to fear that 
they will die before the Sacrament can be admin 
istered in the ordinary way. This precept im 
plies the duty, on the part of physicians and 
midwives, of calling attention to such danger, 
where it exists, and on the part of all concerned 
of seeing to it that the Sacrament is administered 
in time. 9 

6 Codex luris Ccin., can. 746, i: Rom., De Sacr. Bapt., tit. 2, c. i, 

"Nemo in utero matris clausus bap- n. 16. Cfr. St. Thomas, Summa 

tizetur, donee probabilis spes sit ut Theol., 33, qu. 68, art. n. 
rite editus baptisari possit." 2: 7 Codex luris Can., can. 747, 748. 

"Si infans caput emiserit et pericu- 8 Rit. Rom., De Sacr. Bapt., tit. 

lum mortis imtnineat, baptizetur in 2, c. i, n. 17. Cfr. Stohr-Kanna- 

capite; nee postea, si vivus evaserit, muller, Handbuch der Pastoralme- 

est iterum sub conditione baptisan- disin, 5th ed., Freiburg 1909, pp. 

dus." 3: "Si aliud membrum 479 sqq.; Pruner, Lehrb. d, Pasto- 

emiserit, in illo, si periculum immi- raltheol., Vol. I, 2nd ed., pp. 157 

neat, baptisetur sub conditione; et sqq. Codex luris Can., can. 746, 

tune, si not us virerit, est rursus sub 4. 
conditione baptizandus." Cfr. Rit. 8 Codex luris Can., can. 759, i ; 


b) After having their child baptized, parents 
are in duty bound to give it a good Christian edu 
cation, in order that the grace conferred by Bap 
tism may be preserved. In case of death or 
neglect, this duty devolves upon the sponsors, of 
whom there should be at least one and not more 
than two. 10 

2. CONFIRMATION. The Sacrament of Con 
firmation bestows the grace to be "a good soldier 
of Christ Jesus," X1 to profess the Catholic faith 
courageously, and never under any circumstances 
to deny it. Hence all who are able to receive this 
Sacrament are in duty bound to do so. 12 Culpable 
neglect in this matter exposes one to great 
spiritual danger and is a mortal sin if inspired by 
formal contempt for the Sacrament or accom 
panied by grievous scandal, or when there is 
proximate danger of losing faith or charity. 

Bishops are under a grave obligation of afford 
ing the faithful an opportunity to receive this 

can. 743. Kit. Rom., De Sacr. Bapt., 10 Codex luris Can., can. 760, 764. 

tit. 2, c. i, n. 13. The decree of Rit. Rom., De Sacr. Bapt., tit. 2, 

the Holy Office of Jan. n, 1899, al- c. i, n. 25. Cfr. C. Krieg, Wissen- 

ready quoted, says: "Tune vero per- schaft der Seelenleitung, Vol. I, p. 

mitti potent, ut obstetric ilium con- no. Under the new Code no spirit- 

ferat, quando periculum positive ual relationship is incurred by Bap- 

timeatur, ne puer dilationis temper e tism except between the baptizing 

sit moriturus." Cfr. J. B. Geniesse, minister and the person baptized, 

La Mort Reclle et la Mart Appa- and between the latter and the 

rente et leurs Rapports avec I Admi- sponsors (can. 768). 

nistration des Sacrements, Paris 11 2 Tim. II, 3. Cfr. St. Thomas, 

1906; J. Antonelli, Medicina Pasto- Summa Theol., 33, qu. 72, art. i 

ralis, Vol. I, 2nd ed., Rome 1906, pp. and 7. 

265 sqq. 12 Codex luris Can., can. 787. 


Sacrament at least once every five years. 13 
Each person confirmed ought to have a sepa 
rate sponsor, whose obligations are similar to 
those assumed by the sponsor at Baptism. 14 

There is no obligation either to administer or 
to receive this Sacrament fasting, though, ac 
cording to St. Thomas, "where it can conveniently 
be done, it is more becoming that both giver and 
receiver should be fasting. 1 


READINGS. Rituale Romanum, De Sacro Baptismate. J. B. 
Geniesse, La Mort Reel et la Mart Apparente et leurs Rapports 
avec I Administration des Sacrements, Paris 1906. J. Antonelli, 
Medicina Pastoralis, Vol. I, 2nd ed., Rome 1906. Pohle-Preuss, 
The Sacraments, Vol. I, pp. 238 sqq., 304 sqq. Stohr-Kanna- 
miiller, Handbuch der Pastoralmedizin, 4th ed., Freiburg 1900. 
Codex luris Canonici, De Baptismo, can. 737-779; De Confirma- 
tione, can. 780-800. M. J. O Donnell, "Baptism in the New 
Code," in the Irish Eccles. Record, 5th Series, Vol. X, No. 6, 
pp. 441 sqq. P. Hoornaert, S.J., Bapteme d Urgence, Brussels 
1923. Sabetti-Barrett, S.J., Comp. Theol. Mor., pp. 534 sqq., 
555 sqq. Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of Moral Theology, Vol. II, 
pp. 47 sqq., 67 sqq. H. Noldin, S.J., Sununa Thcol. Mor., Vol. 
Ill, pp. 62 sqq., 99 sqq. A. Lehmkuhl, S.J., Theol. Mor., Vol. II, 
pp. 43 sqq., 70 sqq. 

13 Ibid., can. 785, 3 sq. accipiatur, quia unus episcopus, 

14 Codex luris Can., can. 794, 797. praecipue in magna dioecesi, non 

15 Summa Theol., 33, qu. 72, art. sufficeret ad tot homines confirman- 
12, ad 2: "Propter multitudinem dos, si eis tempus arctaretur. Ubi 
fidelium et propter pericula imminen- tatnen congrue observari potest, con- 
fid sustinetur, ut hoc sacramentutn, venientius est, ut a ieiunis detur et 
quod nonnisi db episcopis dari pot- accipiatur." 

est, etiam a nonieiunis detur vel 



The Holy Eucharist is entitled to an important 
place in Moral Theology because it has been insti 
tuted as the spiritual food of the soul, as a means 
to avoid everyday sins, and as a pledge of eternal 
glory. 1 Christ instituted this Sacrament for 
the twofold purpose of transforming and en 
nobling human nature, and enabling men to ad 
vance on the way to righteousness and become 
intimately united with God. As Communion 
the Holy Eucharist is both the efficient cause 
and sign of a real and mystic union with Jesus 
Christ 2 "the sacrament of ecclesiastical unity, 
which is brought about by many being one in 
Christ." 3 "From the Eucharist the martyrs 

ijohn VI, 50 sqq. St. Ignatius 2 Cfr. John VI, 54; i Cor. X, 
(Ep. ad Ephes., 20, 2) calls the 16 sq. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacra- 
Holy Eucharist "the medicine of ments, Vol. II, 2nd ed., pp. 218 
immortality, the antidote that we sqq.; M. Heimbucher, Die Wirkung 
should not die, but live forever in der hi. Kommunion, Ratisbon 1884. 
Christ." (Funk, Patres Apost., 3 "Sacr amentum unitatis ecclesia- 
Vol. I, 2nd ed., p. 230). Rit. Rom., sticae, quae attenditur secundum hoc, 
De S. Euch. Sacr., tit. 4, c. 2, n. 6: quod multi sunt unum in Christo." 
"O sacrum convivium, in quo (St. Thomas, Summa Theol., 33, 
Christus sumitur, recolitur memoria qu. 82, art. 2, ad 2). St. Augustine 
passionis eius, mens impletur gra- exclaims: "O sacramentum pietatis! 
ti& et futurae gloriae nobis pignus O signum unitatis I O -vinculum cari- 
datur." tatisl" (TV. in loa., 26, n. 13). 



drew their strength, the virgins their zeal, the 
saints their courage." 4 

The nature and effects of this Sacrament give 
rise to the following obligations. 

ION. Holy Communion is not necessary as a 
means of salvation (necessitate medii), but a 
divine precept imposes upon all who have attained 
the use of reason the duty of receiving the Eu 
charist if possible (necessitas praecepti). 5 

i. This duty is based on the same general rea 
sons as that of receiving Confirmation, plus the 
additional one that Holy Communion is a food 
without which the supernatural life of the soul 
must needs grow weak or cease altogether. 
There can be no doubt that the divine precept of 
receiving the Holy Eucharist as viaticum 6 (when 
there is danger of death from whatever cause) 
obliges under pain of mortal sin, for Christ ex 
pressly declared: "Except you eat the flesh of 
the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not 
have life in you." 7 

In another place (ibid., n. 14) he 5 Cfr. Luke XXII, 19; John VI, 

calls the Eucharist "panis concor- 54 i Cor. XI, 26. Cone. Trident., 

diae." Again he says: "Fortes Sess. XIII, c. 2, can. 9; Sess. XXI, 

sunt martyres, firmi sunt martyres, c. 4, can. 4 (Denzinger-Bannwart, 

sed panis confirmat cor hominis, n. 875, 891, 933, 937)- St. Thomas, 

p^nis qui de caelo descendit." Summa Theol., 32., qu. 73, art. 3; qu. 

(Serm., 333, c. i; Migne, P. L., 80, art. n. 

XXXVIII, 1464). Cfr. K. Adam, e To reXetmuoj Kal dvayKaiora- 

Die Eucharistielehre des hi. Augu- rov e065iop. 

stin, Paderborn 1908. 7 John VI, 54. Codex luris Can., 

4 Don Bosco. can. 864, i. Cone. Nicaen. I., can. 


2. The duty with which we are concerned is 
inculcated by the well-known ecclesiastical pre 
cept which commands all the faithful who have 
attained the use of reason to receive Holy Com 
munion at least once a year, during Easter time. 
This law, passed by the Fourth Council of the 
Lateran, 8 was at first purely disciplinary, but re 
ceived dogmatic character at the Council of 
Trent. 9 The paschal precept must be regarded 
as an authentic interpretation of the divine 
command to eat the Body and Blood of the 
Lord. Needless to say, it can be fulfilled only by 
a worthy Communion. 10 If for some reason the 
precept is not complied with during the paschal 
season, it remains binding for the remainder of 
the ecclesiastical year, and if one foresees that 
he will be unable to perform his Easter duty 
within or after the prescribed time, he should try 
to attend to it in advance. 11 

13 (Hefele, Concilicngeschichte, Vol. consilio proprii sacerdotis, ob ali- 

I, 2nd ed., p. 417). Cone. Trident-, quam rationabilem causam, ad tern- 

Sess. XIII, c. 8. On the ancient pus ab eius perceptions duxerit ab- 

custom of receiving Communion as stinendum." 

viaticum see A. Struckmann, Die Ge- 10 This has been indirectly de- 

genwan Christi in der hi. Euchari- fined by Innocent XI when he con- 

stie, Vienna 1905, pp. 210 sqq. demned the proposition: "Prae- 

8 Cone. Lat. IV. (A. D. 1215), cepto communionis annuae satisfit 
c. 21 (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 437). per sacrilegam Domini manduca- 

9 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIII, can. tionem." (Prop. Damnat., n. 55; 
9. Cfr. J. P. Gury, Comp. Theol. Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 1205). The 
Moralis, Vol. II, n. 218 sq. The new Codex luris Can. expressly says 
new Codex luris Can. states the law (can. 861): "Pr(ecepto communi- 
of paschal Communion in the usual onis recipiendae non satisfit per sa- 
terms of our catechisms, but adds crilegam communionem." 

(can. 859, i): "... nisi forte de n Cfr. Koch-Preuss, Handbook of 


The place for making the Easter Communion 
is the parish church. One who makes it else 
where, under the new Code of Canon Law, is ad 
monished to inform his pastor of the fact. 12 

ture of the Holy Eucharist is such that it must 
be received with the greatest possible purity of 
soul and body. 

receive Holy Communion worthily, the soul must 
be free from mortal sin. 13 Therefore, if one 
is conscious of a mortal sin, he must worthily 
receive the Sacrament of Penance before ap 
proaching the Holy Table. If he must communi 
cate, and confession is impossible, he should at 
least make an act of perfect contrition. Mortal 
sins forgotten in a worthy confession should, if a 
good opportunity offers, be confessed before ap 
proaching the Holy Table. There is, however, 
no strict obligation to do so, and if one has no 
opportunity to confess, it will suffice to mention 
such sins in the next confession. To receive the 

Moral Theology, Vol. I, p. 179. St. cept see A. Villien, A History of 

Alphonsus, Theol. Moral., 1. VI, n. the Commandments of the Church, 

297 sqq. St. Louis 1915, pp. 210 sqq. 

12 Codex luris Can., can. 859, 3: 13 Cfr. i Cor. XI, 27 sqq.; Cone. 

"Suadendum est fidelibus ut huic Trident., Sess. XIII, c. 7, can. n 

praecepto [communionis paschalis] (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 880, 893); 

satisfaciant in sua quisque paroecia; Sess. XXII, De Observ. et Evitand. 

et qui in aliena paroecia satisfece- in Celebrat. Missae. Cfr. Prop, 

rint, curent proprium par o chum de Dantnat. ab Alexandra VII., n. 38 

adimpleto praecepto certiorem fa- (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 1138). 
Cera." On the history of this pro- 


Holy Eucharist while conscious of mortal sin is a 
very grievous sin, and the greatest of sacrileges, 
though, contrary to the opinion of many, by no 
means the most grievous sin a man can commit. 14 

As an immediate preparation for Holy Com 
munion, acts of faith, hope, charity, adoration, 
desire, devotion, and humility should be elicited. 
All these acts may profitably be directed to 
Christ s sacrificial death on the cross. 15 A part 
of the preparation for Communion in the wider 
sense is the thanksgiving following its reception. 
This is a very important and effective means of 
preserving the graces obtained and of making 
them fruitful for the spiritual life. The thanks 
giving after Communion should consist mainly 
in acts of adoration, humility, gratitude, love, 
and self-oblation, 16 and should contain some spe 
cial petitions and resolutions. 

of the body the worthy reception of the Euchar 
ist requires: 

a) Cleanliness and a decent habiliment. Neg 
lect of these requisites betrays a moral defect and 

14 Cfr. St. Thomas, Sutnma Theolo- des Herrn, Freiburg 1903, pp. 162 

gica, 33, qu. 80, art. 5; Pohle- sqq. 

Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. II, 15 Cfr. Luke XXII, 19; i Cor. 

2nd ed., pp. 268 sq. On the par- XI, 26; Kit. Rom., De Euch. Sacr., 

ticipation of Judas in the Last Sup- tit. 4, c. i, n. 4; F. S. Renz, Die 

per see St. Thomas, Sutnma Theol., Geschichte des Messopferbcgriffes, 

3a, qu. 8 1, art. 2; J. Belser, Die Vol. I, pp. 115 sqq. 

Geschichte des Leidens und Sterbens is Cfr. P. Lejeune, Avant tt 

apres la Communion, Paris 1901. 


is a violation of the respect due to the Sacrament 
and to Jesus Christ, who is present therein. 
Holy Communion must not, however, be denied 
to those who suffer from diseases which ordi 
narily involve physical uncleanness, e. g., leprosy, 
smallpox, eczema, etc. The married are advised 
(though not commanded) to abstain from carnal 
intercourse immediately before and after Com 
munion. 17 "Neither legitimate cohabitation nor 
a flow of blood nor seminal pollutions during sleep 
but only impious and illicit conduct can violate 
nature or expel the Holy Ghost/ 18 

b) A second bodily requisite for the worthy 
reception of Communion is that the recipient 
be fasting. The Eucharistic fast, known as 
ieiunium naturale, consists in complete absten 
tion from food and drink and everything that 
is ordinarily taken after the manner of food and 
drink (per modum cibi et potus) after midnight 
(post mediam noctem). This law binds under 
pain of mortal sin and admits of no parvitas 

17 Cfr. i Cor. VII. 5 sq.; Cat. Thomas, Summa Theol, 33, Suppl., 
Rom., P. II, c. 4, qu. 56; Innocent qu. 64, art. 3. 

XI s Decree "Quum ad Aures," Feb. 19 St. Augustine, Epist., 54 (a/. 

12, 1679 (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 118), n. 8: "Placuit Spirit ui Sane- 

1147); Missale Rom., De Defect, in to, ut in honorem tanti Sacramenti 

Celebr. Missae, tit. 9, n. 5; Pseudo- in os christiani prius Dominic um cor- 

Augustine, Append. Serm., 292 (at. pus intraret, quam ceteri cibi; nam 

244 De Temp.), n. 3 (Migne, P. L., ideo per universum orbem mos iste 

XXXIX, 2298). servatur." (Migne, P. L., XXXIII, 

18 Constit. Apost., VI, c. 27 (ed. 203). Missale Rom., De Defect, in 
Funk, Vol. I, p. 371); cfr. Struck- Celebr. Missae, tit. 9, n. 1-4; Rit t 
mann, Die Gegenwart Christi in der Rom., tit. 4, c. i, n. 3. St. Thomas 
hi. Eucharistie, pp. 207 sqq.; St. says (Summa Theol., 3a, qu. 80, art. 


materiae. The term midnight is to be under 
stood physically, not morally, but we are allowed 
to follow either standard or sidereal time. 

The Eucharistic fast does not, however, bind those 
who are in danger of death, i. e., who suffer from a dis 
ease in which the Holy Eucharist is given as viaticum 
(which may be done repeatedly in the course of the same 
illness 20 ). Nor does it bind when there is danger of a 
profanation of the Sacrament by unbelievers, or of scan 
dal or infamy, or when a priest is compelled to complete 
the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass after the Consecration, 
either because he has "consecrated" and consumed water 
instead of wine (in which case he is obliged to reconse 
crate and consume both species) or, for good reason, the 
wine only, or because he is overcome by sudden illness or 
death. It is of precept to complete a Mass once it has 
proceeded beyond the consecration of the bread, and in 
case of necessity it may be done by one who is no longer 
fasting. If the priest who finishes a Mass in place of 
another has not yet said Mass himself, he is not allowed 
to say another Mass, etiam abhttione non sumpta, unless 
he has the privilege of binating. 21 

The Eucharistic fast, finally, is not binding on in- 

8, ad 5) : "Ecclesia Romano diem mortis urgeat Periculum, out neces- 

a media node incipit. Et ideo, si sitas impediendi irreverentiam in 

Post mediam noctem aliguis sump- sacramentum." 

serit aliquid per modum cibi vel 20 See the decision of the Holy 

potus, non potest eadem die hoc Office of Sept. 7, 1897, and that of 

sumere sacramentum; potest vero, si the S. Congregation of the Council, 

ante mediam noctem/ The new of Dec. 7, 1906. Codex luris Can., 

Codex luris Can. reinforces the old can. 858, 2; 864, 3. 

law as follows (can. 858, i): 21 Missale Rom., De Defect, in 

"Qui a media nocte ieiunium na- Celebr. Missae, tit. 10, n. 5. Cfr. 

turale non sen<averit, nequit ad sane- St. Alphonsus, Theol. Mor t , 1. VI, 

tissimam Eucfaristiam admitti, nisi n. 287 sqq. 


valids or on those who have been legitimately dispensed 
by the Pope. Invalids may receive Communion once or 
twice a week even if they are obliged to take some liquid 
food. 21 

Communion (communio frequens) is understood 
the reception of the Holy Eucharist daily or at 
least several times a week. 

i. There can be no doubt that frequent Com 
munion agrees perfectly with the teaching and 
practice of the Church. St. Augustine says 
that, unless a man s sins are so great as to merit 
excommuniation, he should not deprive himself of 
the daily medicine of the Body of Christ. 22 The 
Council of Trent "admonishes, exhorts, begs, 
and beseeches . . . that all and each of those 
who bear the Christian name . . . would believe 
and venerate these sacred mysteries of [Christ s] 
Body and Blood with such constancy and firm- 

21 Codex luris Canonici, can. 227 (al. 83 De Diversis) : "Debetis 
858, 2. [infantes] scire, quid accepistis, quid 

22 St. Augustine, Epist., 54 (al. accepturi estis, quid quot die acci- 
ii 8), n. 4: "Peccata, si tanta non pere debeatis," (P. L., XXXVIII, 
sunt, ut excommunicandus quisque 1099). Pseudo-Augustine, Append, 
iudicetur, non se debet a quotidiana Serm., 84 (al. 28 De Verbis Do- 
medicina Dominici corporis separare. mini), n. 3: "Accipe quotidie, quod 
. . . Faciat autem unusquisque, quod quotidie tibi prosit; sic vive, ut quo- 
secundum fidem suam pie credit esse tidie merearis accipere. Qui non 
faciendum. . . . Nam et ille hono- meretur quotidie accipere, non mere- 
rando non audet quotidie sumere, et tur post annum accipere." (P. L., 
ille honorando non audet ullo die XXXIX, 1908 sq.). The latter 
praetermittere. Contemptum solum passage appears verbatim also in 
non vult cibus iste, sicut nee manna Pseudo-Ambrose, De Sacram., 1. V, 
fastidium." (Migne, Pair. Lat., n. 25 (P. L., XVI, 452). 
XXXIII, 201 sq.) IDEM, Serm., 


ness of faith, with such devotion of soul, with 
such piety and worship, as to be able frequently to 
receive that supersubstantial bread/ 23 which, ac 
cording to the same holy Synod, is "an antidote 
whereby we may be freed from daily faults and 
preserved from mortal sins/ "the spiritual food 
of our souls/ by which we are "fed and strength 
ened." 24 

2. Since frequent Communion is so ardently 
desired by Jesus Christ and His Church, the 
way to the altar railing should be open to all the 
faithful without distinction of rank, class or con 
dition. No one should be turned away who is in 
the state of grace and approaches the table of 
the Lord with a right intention. The right in 
tention demanded by the Church consists in the 
desire to receive the Eucharist, not as a matter 
of habit, or out of vainglory or human respect, 
or for some other earthly motive, but for the 
purpose of pleasing God, of becoming more 
closely united with Him by charity, and of seek 
ing this divine remedy for one s weaknesses and 
defects. 25 

23 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIII, c. munion Quotidienne, Roulers and 

8; Sess. XXII. c. 6 (Denzinger- Bruxelles, 1904; Ch. Madridius. J. 

Bannwart, n. 882, 944). Cfr. the P. Bock, De Frequenti Usu S. Eu- 

decree of Innocent XI, "Quum ad charistiae Sacramenti, Vienna 1909. 

cures" (Denzinger-Bannwart. n. 24 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIII, c. 

1147 sqrj ) ; St. Thomas, Summa 2 (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 875). 

Theol., 3a, qu. 80, art. 10; Lejeune, Cfr. Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 4, qu. 69; 

La Pratique de la Sainte Commit- F. Meffert, Der hi. Alfons, pp. 253 

nion, Paris 1900; F. X. Godts, C.SS. sqq. 

R., Exagcrations Historiques et 25 Decree of the S. Congr. of the 

TMologiques concernant la Com- Council, Dec. 20, 1905, "Sacra Tri- 


The frequent reception of Holy Communion 
quite naturally entails certain demands upon the 

While it would be presumptuous to set up absolute 
rules, we may safely say that 

a) It is fitting that he who receives Communion daily 
be free from conscious attachment to (venial) sin and 
strive earnestly and sincerely after perfection. However, 
though it is highly desirable that daily and frequent com 
municants be free from venial sins, at least from those 
which are entirely voluntary, and also from all attach 
ment to sin, it is sufficient if they avoid mortal sins and 
harbor the earnest intention to sin no more, for with such 
a purpose they will inevitably be weaned more and more 
from sin. 

b) How often each one may go to Communion is a 
question to be decided by the confessor. 26 In admitting 
children to their first Communion, the parents and the 
confessor should be consulted, but the final decision rests 
with the pastor. 27 

In regard to frequent Communion two extremes must 
be avoided: (i) Jansenistic rigorism, which demands a 
high state of perfection, and (2) laxism, which regards 
the frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist as an infal 
lible mark of predestination. 28 

dentina Synodus." The best En- ex conscientiarum puritate et fre- 

glish commentary on this decree is, quentiae fructu et ad pietatem pro- 

The Decree on Daily Communion, cessu laicis negotiatoribus et coniu- 

by J. B. Ferreres, S.J., translated by gatis, quod prospicient eorum saluti 

H. Jimenez, S.J., London 1909. profuturum, id illis praescribere de- 

26 Innocent XI s Decree "Quum bebunt." (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 

ad aures" (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 1147). Cfr. Leo Kill s Decree 

1147): "Frequens ad sacram ali- "Quemadmodum omnium rerum hu- 

moniam percipiendam accessus con- tnanarum," Dec. 17, 1890. 

fessariorum secreta cordis explo- 27 Codex luris Can., can. 854, 5 5- 

rantium iudicio est relinquendus, qui 28 Prop. Damnat. ab Alex. Vlll., 


Since the promulgation of the decree " Sancta Triden- 
tina Synodus/ Dec. 20, 1905, it is forbidden to engage in 
" contentious controversies " concerning the dispositions 
required for frequent and daily Communion. 29 

The duty of adoring Christ in the Blessed Sac 
rament is fulfilled, broadly speaking, by partici 
pating in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, 
which is the acme and centre of our religion. 
The custom of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the 
Mass in common on Sundays is as old as Christi 
anity itself. 30 The duty of attending Mass on 
Sundays and holydays was enforced by ecclesias 
tical synods since the sixth century. 31 Under the 
present discipline this duty can be complied with 
in any church or in any public or semi-public 
oratory. 32 Pastors are bound to offer the Holy 
Sacrifice on every Sunday and holyday of obli 
gation for the people under their charge. 

Though the second commandment of the 

Dec. 7, 1690, prop. 22: "Sacrilegi 29 Decree "Sancta Tridentina 

sunt iudicandi, qui ius ad commit- Synodus," art. 9; Ferreres, The De- 

nionem percipiendum praetendunt, cree on Daily Communion, p. 33. 

antequam condignam de delictis suis 30 Cfr. Justin Martyr, Apolog., I, 

poenitentiam egerint." Prop. 23: 65 sq.; Pliny, Epist.. X, 97; Ter- 

"Similiter arcendi sunt a sacra com- tullian, De Fuga, c. 14. 

munione, quibus nondum inest amor 31 Cone. Agath., A. D. 506, can. 

Dei purissimus et omnis mixtionis 47; cfr. the Decretum Gratiani, dist. 

expers." (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. i, can. 64, De Consecratione (Fried- 

1313)- Prop. Damnat. sub Innoc. berg s ed., Leipsic 1879, col. 1312). 

XI., prop. 56: "Frequens confes- 32 Cfr. Noldin, Summa Theol. 

sio et communio etiam in his, qui Mor., Vol. II, nth ed., pp. 280 sqq. 

gentiliter vivunt, est nota praede- Cone. Trident., Sess. XXII, 

stinationis." (Denzinger-Bannwart, Deer, de Observandis; Sess. XXIII, 

n - 1206). c. i, De Ref. Codex luris Cano- 



Church merely establishes the general duty of 
hearing Mass on Sundays and holydays of obliga 
tion, particular individuals, because of special 
needs, may be bound to hear Mass more fre 

Belief in the Real Presence of Christ and the significa 
tion and value of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, as well as the 
oft-expressed desire of the Church, ought to induce every 
faithful Catholic to attend Mass whenever possible and to 
communicate sacramentally, or at least spiritually, by 
eliciting an ardent desire to be united with Christ and to 
be made worthy of the graces of Communion. 33 Special 
opportunities for worshipping our Eucharistic Lord are 
furnished by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the 
exposition of the Sacred Host during the Forty Hours 
Devotion, the so-called Holy Hour, the Corpus Christi 
procession, and other celebrations. 

READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, 3a, qu. 80, art. 
l-n. H. Noldin. S.J., Summa Theol. Mor., Vol. Ill, pp. 115 sqq. 
P. Gasparri, Tract. Can. de SS. Eucharistia, 2 vols., Paris 1890. 
Chr. Pesch, S.J., Praelectiones Dogmaticae, Vol. VI, 2nd ed., pp. 
346 sqq. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. II, pp. 265 sqq., 
pp. 136 sqq. M. Heimbucher, Die Wirkung der hi. Kommunion, 
Ratisbon 1884. Laboure, L Eucharistie Centre de la Vie 
Chretienne, Paris 1899. Leo XIII, Encyclical "Mirae Caritatis" 
May 28, 1902. Codex luris Canonici, can. 801-869. J. Gerber, 
S.J., La Sainte Eucharistie, Paris 1925 (a resume of the moral 
theology of the Holy Eucharist as a sacrament and as a sacrifice.) 

nlci, can. 859, 3. Instruct Pa- 8; Sess. XXII, c. 6 (Denzinger- 
storalis Eystettenstis, sth ed., Frei- Bannwart, n. 882, 944). St. Thorn- 
burg 1902, pp. 20 sqq. as, Summa Theol., 33, qu. 80, art. 
33 Cone. Trident.. Sess. XIII, c. i, ad 3. 



Sacrament of Penance (sacramentum poeniten- 
tiae sive reconciliation/is) is the normal means 
by which a Catholic who has committed mortal 
sin after Baptism can recover sanctifying grace. 
To receive this Sacrament, actually or at least 
in desire (in re aut in voto), is as necessary for 
persons guilty of mortal sin as Baptism is for 
those still in the state of original sin. This is 
but another way of saying that for all Christians 
guilty of mortal sin Penance is a necessary means 
of salvation (necessitas medii). 1 Christ has in 
stituted this Sacrament for the forgiveness of 
sins, and hence perfect contrition without at least 
the votum sacramenti cannot justify a sinner, 
for contrition, to be truly perfect, must include 
the desire of employing the divinely ordained 
means of reconciliation, i. e., the Sacrament of 
Penance. 2 Justly, therefore, is Penance called 
"the second plank after shipwreck." 3 

1 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De Trident., Sess. XIV, De Poenit., c. 
Poenit., c. 2, can. 6 (Denzinger- i and 4 (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 
Bannwart, n. 895, 915); St. Thomas, 894, 897 sq.). 

Summa Theol., 33, qu. 84, art. 5. 3 St. Jerome, In Is., II, c. 3: 

2 Cf r. John XX, 21-23; Cone. "Secunda post naufragium tabula est 



From the fact that Penance is by divine right 
necessary for all who have fallen into mortal sin, 
it follows that a Catholic is bound to receive this 

a) When he has had the misfortune of commit 
ting a mortal sin. Consciously and voluntarily to 
remain in the state of mortal sin is incompatible 
with the virtue of charity towards God, shows 
contempt for grace, and runs counter to Chris 
tian self-love, because the sinner thereby in 
capacitates himself for the performance of any 
and all meritorious works and endangers his soul. 4 
Hence it is advisable to go to confession as soon 
as possible after falling into mortal sin. 8 

All sins committed after Baptism are matter 
(materia remota et removenda) for Penance. 
Mortal sins alone are necessary matter (materia 

et consolatio miseriarum, impieta- Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. Ill, 

tern suam abscondere." (Migne, 2nd ed., p. 73. 

P. L., XXIV, 65). IDEM, Epist., 4 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De 

130 (a/. 8), n. 9: "Verum nos ig- Poenit., can. i (Denzinger-Bann- 

noremus poenitentiam, ne facile pec- wart, n. 911). St. Thomas, Summa 

cemus. Ilia quasi secunda post nau- Theol., 33, Suppl., qu. 6, art. 5. 

fragium miseris tabula sit, in vir- 5 Cfr. St. Bonaventure, Comment, 

gine Integra servetur navis. Aliud in Sent., IV, dist. 17, qu. 2, p. 2: 

est quaerere, quod perdideris, aliud "Consilvum tamen sanum credo, quod 

est possidere, quod nunquam ami- omnes, qui cadunt per mortals, 

seris." (P. L., XXII, 1115). Cfr. quam citius possunt, confiteantur; 

Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De non enim videtur vere contritus, qui 

Poenit., can. 2 (Denzinger-Bann- tarn longo tempore vulnus peccati 

wart, n. 912). Cat. Rom., P. II, c. portat occultum. . . . De talibus 

5, qu. i. Peter Lombard, Sent., IV, generaliter asserere, quod possunt 

dist. 14, p. i. St. Thomas, Summa usque ad Pascha differre, videtur 

Theol., aa, qu. 84, art. 6. St. Bona- mihi periculosum." (Opera Omnia, 

venture, Breviloquium, P. VI, c. 10 IV, 445 sq.). 
(ed. II, Vicetia. p. 531). Pohle- 


necessaria). Therefore, one who is conscious of 
venial sins only, is not per se bound to receive the 
Sacrament, for venial sins can be expiated by 
other means besides Penance. 6 Nevertheless, ve 
nial sins are admissible and sufficient matter (ma- 
teria liber a sen sufficiens) for confession, and it is 
advisable to include them, as the Sacrament of 
Penance is the best and most efficacious means of 
obtaining forgiveness of them, for two reasons : 
first, because men are easily deceived as to the 
character of certain sins, and, secondly, because 
Penance serves not merely to blot out sin and 
sanctify the soul, but also to instruct, console, and 
encourage the sinner, and thus aids him on the 
way to perfection. 

A Catholic is furthermore bound to receive this 

b) When he is laden with mortal sin and in 
danger of death, or when he is conscious of being 
in the state of mortal sin and wishes to receive a 
Sacrament of the living; or 

c) When he is commanded to do so by an ec 
clesiastical precept (iure ecclesiastico) . The 
Third Commandment of the Church says that 
every Catholic should worthily confess his sins 
at least once a year to a duly ordained priest. 7 

Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De 62 sq. Gopfert, Moraltheologie, 
Poenit,, c. 5, can. 6 (Denzinger- Vol. Ill, 4th ed., p. 150. 
Bannwart, n. 899 sqq., 916); Pohle- 7 See A. Villien, A History of the 

Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. Ill, Commandments of the Church, pp. 

151 sqq. 


Of course, this binds only those who have commit 
ted mortal sin. 8 No definite time is assigned for 
the fulfillment of this obligation, but the Church 
recommends that it be done in Lent. As a rule 
the annual confession is made in connection with 
the prescribed paschal Communionc Frequent 
reception of the Sacrament of Penance may be 
recommended as a most effective protection 
against sin and a powerful means of perfection. 9 

ance is described by the Fathers as "a laborious 
Baptism." 10 As such it demands a larger mea 
sure of personal cooperation on the part of the re 
cipient than any other Sacrament. Whoever 
wishes to receive this Sacrament worthily must 
practice the virtue of penance or repentance ll and 
confess his mortal sins, or, as the case may be, 
one or more venial sins. More specifically, he 
must make an act of contrition coupled with a 
firm purpose of amendment (contritio cordis), 
confess his sins to a duly authorized priest (con- 
fessio om), and accept and perform the satisfac 
tion imposed (satis factio o peris). Not all of 
these conditions, however, are of equal import 
ance. Actual satisfaction belongs merely to the 
integrity of the Sacrament, whereas contrition, 

8 Slater, Moral Theol, I, 576 sq.; 10 See Pohle-Preuss, The Sacra- 
infra, p. 152. ments, Vol. Ill, p. 73. 

9 Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 5, qu. 46. ll Cfr. op. cit., pp. i sqq. 
Ph. Scharsch, Die Devotionsbeichte, 

3rd ed., Leipsic 1920. 


confession, and absolution are of its very es 
sence. 12 

The Catechism of Trent says : "In the general opinion 
of the pious, whatever of holiness, piety, and religion has 
been preserved in the Church in our times, through the 
boundless beneficence of God, is to be ascribed in a great 
measure to confession." 1S The same authority describes 
Penance as " this citadel, so to speak, of Christian virtue," 
and adds that, though sins are cancelled by perfect con 
trition, few can reach a sufficient degree of contrition, 
and consequently it was "necessary that the Lord, in His 
infinite mercy, should provide by some easier means for 
the common salvation of men; and this He did, in His 
admirable wisdom, when He gave to the Church the keys 
of the Kingdom of Heaven." 14 

READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, 33, qu. 84-90. 
P. Schanz, Die Lehre von den hi. Sakramenten, pp. 535 sqq. 
Chr. Pesch, S.J., Praelectiones Dogmaticae, Vol. VIII, 2nd ed., 
pp. 4 sqq. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. Ill, Penance, 
pp. 130 sqq. F. X. Zenner, Instructio Practica Confessarii, 
Vienna 1857. F. Lorinser, Die Lehre von der Verwaltung des 
hi. Bussakramentes, 2nd ed., Breslau 1883. J. Reuter, S.J., Neo- 
confessarius Practice Instructus, 4th ed. by J. Mullendorf, Ratis- 
bon 1006. A. Tappehorn, Anleitung zur Verwaltung des Bussa 
kramentes, 5th ed., Diilmen 1908. D. Palmieri, Tractatus de 
Poenitentia, Rome 1879. 

12 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De J. A. Moehler, Symbolism (tr. Rob- 

Poenit., c. 2 and 3, can. 4 (Den- ertson), 5th ed., London 1906, pp. 

zinger-Bannwart, n. 895 sqq., 914). 223 sqq. Noldin, Summa Theol. 

Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 5, qu. 20. Mor., Vol. Ill, pp. 349 sqq. 

Error. M. Lutheri damnat. a Leone 13 Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 5, qu. 36 

X., prop. 5 (Denzinger-Bannwart, (a/. 32); A. Kirchberger, Der gldvt- 

n. 745). Pohle-Preuss, The Sacra- bige Protestant und die Beichte, 

ments, Vol. Ill, pp. 132 sqq. B. Innsbruck 1906. 

Pascal, Pensees, P. I, a. 5, n. 8 14 Cat. Rom., ibid. 
(Vol. I, Paris 1812, pp. 194 qq.). 




i. NATURE OF CONTRITION. Contrition (con- 
tritio cordis) is the most necessary constituent of 
Penance, both as a virtue and as a Sacrament, 1 
for without contrition there can be no genu 
ine repentance and no forgiveness. 2 The Council 
of Trent defines contrition as "a sorrow of the 
soul and a detestation for sin committed, with the 
purpose of not sinning for the future." 3 Hence 
contrition is essentially an act of the will, by 
which man renounces sin and determines to avoid 
it in future. The act of renunciation is called 
contrition in the strict sense (contritio stride 
dicta), while the determination to avoid fu 
ture sins is termed purpose of amendment (pro- 
posit um). 

Being an interior sorrow of the soul, contri 
tion differs from that purely intellectual regret 
(dolor intellectivus speculations) which consists 

1 Cfr. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacra- 3 Sess. XIV, De Poenit., cap. 4: 
ments, Vol. Ill, pp. i sqq. ; 72 sqq. "Contritio, quae primum locum in- 

2 Joel II, 12 sq. Cfr. Prop. Dam- ter dictos poenitentis actus habet, 
nat. sub Innoc. XL, prop. 60: animi dolor ac detestatio est de pec- 
"Poenitenti habenti consuetudinem cato commisso cum proposito non 
peccandi contra legem Dei, naturae peccandi de cetero." Cfr. St. 
out ecclesiae, etsi emendationis spes Thomas, Summa Theol., 33, Suppl., 
nulla appareat, nee est neganda nee qu. i, ad i: "Contritio est dolor 
differenda absolutio, dummodo ore pro peccatis assumptus cum proposito 
proferat, se dolere et proponere confitendi et satis faciendi." 
emendationem." (Denzinger-Bann- 

wart, n. 1210). 


in a mere perception of the damnableness of 
sin, and also from the so-called terror consci- 
entiae, I. e., the fear with which conscience is 
smitten upon being convinced of iniquity. 4 Both 
these emotions may be present without a spark of 
genuine contrition. 

The moral value of contrition, as a turning 
away from sin and a turning to God (aversio a 
pec cat o et conversio ad Deum), consists in its be 
ing an act of the will, 5 and consequently it need 
not be accompanied by sensible pain or grief, nor 
manifest itself by sighs and tears. Whilst there 
is such a thing as "tears of contrition," 6 sensible 
sorrow forms no constituent of genuine contri 
tion, nor is its presence a sure proof thereof. 

"As there are tears that indicate no deep emotion, so 
there is a sorrow without tears. As a rule, however, it 
is desirable that contrition should be manifested by out 
ward signs. Such outward signs of internal sorrow for 
sin are technically known as signa contritionis, and di 
vided into two classes, ordinary and extraordinary. The 
latter manifest themselves partly in an unusual stirring 

4 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De sensu percipi. Contritio enim est 
Poenit., can. 4: "Si quis . . di- voluntatis actio." Cfr. Cone. Tri- 
xerit, duas tantum esse poenitentiae dent., Sess. VI, c. 6 (Denzinger- 
partes, terrores scilicet incussos con- Bannwart, n. 798). 

scientiae agnito peccato et fidem, 6 Cfr. Ps. VI, 7; Matth. XXVI, 

anathema sit." Con/. August., art. 75 ; Luke VII, 44, 47. Cfr. St. Au- 

12. Mohler, Symbolism, pp. 124 gustine, Serin., 351, c. i: "Sicut 

sqq.; pp. 223. comes poenitentiae dolor est, ita la- 

5 Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 5, qu. 24: crimae sunt testes doloris." (Migne, 
"Quod autem contritio dolore de- P. L., XXXIX, 1536). Cat. Rom., 
finita est, monendi sunt fideles, ne P. II, c. 5, qu. 28. 

arbitrentur, cum dolorem corporis 


of the affections and partly in the making of special ef 
forts to go to confession, seek advice, etc. Such extraor 
dinary signs are of particular significance in the case of 
habitual sinners and recidivi, where ordinary signs fail." T 

may be perfect or imperfect. 

Perfect contrition (contritio caritate per feet a, 
or simply contritio) is inspired by charity, i. e., 
a perfect love of God as the supreme good for 
His own sake. 

Imperfect contrition (contritio imperfecta), 
now technically called attrition (attritio), is sor 
row inspired by some other supernatural motive, 
e. g. } fear of eternal punishment, repugnance to 
sin as an offense against Almighty God, regret at 
having lost divine grace and forfeited heaven, 
etc. 8 

As can be easily seen, the distinction between 
perfect and imperfect contrition is not based upon 
the degree of sorrow a man has for his sins, but 
upon the motives by which that sorrow is in 
spired ; this distinction is specific rather than gen 

T F. X. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch (2) imperfecta, seu attritio, quae est 

der Moraltheologie, pp. 212 sq. detestatio peccati orta ex alio mo- 

8 Cfr. J. P. Gury, Comp. Theol. tivo supernaturali, v. g. ex consi- 

Mor., II, n. 318: "Contritio du- deratione turpitudinis peccati vel ex 

plex distinguitur : (i) perfecta, quae metu inferni out ex amore beatitu- 

est detestatio peccati orta ex motive dinis aeternae." Cone. Trident., 

speciali caritatis perfectae seu boni- Sess. XIV, De Poenit., c. 4 (Den- 

tatis Dei propter se summe dilecti; zinger-Bannwart, n. 897 sq.). 


Perfect contrition, coupled with a desire to receive the 
Sacrament of Penance (contritio cum voto sacramenti) , 
is sufficient to effect the forgiveness of sins not merely in 
cases of necessity, or when it reaches the highest possible 
degree of intensity, but of itself and always. Imperfect 
contrition (attrition), on the other hand, can produce this 
effect only in connection with sacramental confession. 9 
Hence perfect contrition is not an essential requisite of 
Penance, but attrition suffices for the valid reception of 
this Sacrament, provided, of course, that the penitent is 
resolved to sin no more and confidently trusts in the 
mercy of God. 

However, though there is no obligation to make an 
act of perfect contrition in preparing for confession, the 
faithful should be exhorted to do so, to the best of their 
ability. 9 * 

Broadly speaking it is safe to assume that imperfect 
contrition always includes an act of at least incipient 
love (amor initialis), while perfect contrition is rarely 
without an admixture of fear (timor filialis). 10 

o Cone. Trident., 1. c. Cfr. Prop. tit peccata mortalia sen hominem 

Bait Damnat., prop. 31, 32, 70, 71 non iustificat nisi cum voto confes- 

(Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 1031, 1032, sionis, peccata enim remitti non pos- 

1070, 1071). Gury, /. c., n. 335: sunt nisi per medium a Christo insti- 

"Contritio perfecta hominem iusti- tutum. . . . Sufficit autem votum im- 

ficat Per se, etiam extra sacramen- plicitum, votum enim explicitum ne- 

tum poenitentiae. (i) Constat ex que requiritur natura contritionis 

rotione, etenim contritio includit ne- perfectae, utpote quae per se solam 

cessario caritatem perfectam; porro iustificare potest, neque ex prae- 

amare Deum perfecte est cum Deo cepto divino, siquidem nullum 

coniungi, amor enim in unione con- ostendi potest." 

sistit; porro coniunctio cum Deo ne- 9a Cfr. Slater, Questions of 

cessario disiunctionem a pcccato ope- Moral Theology, 355 sqq. 

ratur, quum non possit quis unum 10 Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, c. 6: 

extremum amplecti quin ab cxtrcmo "In spem eriguntur illumque 

opposito totaliter rccedat. Ergo. [Deum] tamquam omnis iustitiae 

(2) Constat e.r Scriptura Sacra fontem diligere incipiunt." (Den- 

(Prz>. viii, 17; loa. .vir, 21; I Pet. iv, zinsjer- Rannwart, n. 798). Cfr. J. 

8). Contritio perfecta non remit- E. Pruner, Kath. Moralthevlogie, 

Vol. II, 3rd ed., p. 374. 


For the valid reception of the Sacrament of Penance 
contrition (whether perfect or imperfect) should be : 

a) Sincere or heart-felt, for else it would be sheer 
hypocrisy. The quality of sincerity flows as a necessary 
effect from the nature of contrition. 

b) Supernatural, both in its origin and in its motives. 
True contrition owes its existence to divine grace and is 
based upon reasons or motives supplied by supernatural 
faith. 11 

c) Supreme or sovereign, not in intensity but appre 
ciatively, i. e., the penitent must detest sin as the greatest 
of all evils and be ready to give up everything he has, 
even life itself, rather than offend God. 12 Since contri 
tion is in the will, not in the emotions, it may happen that 
the sorrow one feels at temporal misfortunes is both 
affectively and intensively greater than that felt at sin 
as a purely spiritual evil; but this need not prevent 
a man s contrition from being appreciatively supreme. 
"If we may not succeed in rendering our contrition per 
fect," says the Roman Catechism, "it may nevertheless 
be true and efficacious, for oftentimes things that 
fall under the senses affect us more than spiritual 
things, and hence some persons experience a greater 
sense of grief for the loss of their children than for the 
baseness of their sins." 1S Our sense of grief need not 

11 Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, can. catum patrare. Etenim conrersio ad 

3 (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 813). Deum debet esse totalis, quum pec- 

Cfr. Prop. Damnat. sub Innoc. XL, catum sit aversio totalis, sed non 

prop. 57: "Probabile est, sufficere esset totalis, nisi esset summa, immo 

attritionem naturalem modo hone- nulla foret, nam homo adhaereret 

stam." (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. adhuc creaturae, quum earn adhuc 

1207). Deo anteponeret." 

i2Cfr. J. P. Gury, Comp. Theol. IB Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 5, QU. 28: 

Mor., II, n. 328: "Summa, i. e., "Quamquam si id minus consequi no- 

ut peccator detestetur crimen suum bis liceat, ut perfecta sit, vera tamen 

plus quam omne aliud malum, et ma- et efficax contritio esse potest. 

lit omnia perdere et pati, quam pec- Saepe enim usu venit, ut quae sen- 


be supreme, for to make it so is largely beyond our con 
trol; but we must by a combined act of the mind and 
will abhor sin above all other evils. Theologians express 
this technically by saying that sin must be detested as the 
greatest of all evils, not affectively, but effectively 14 
(non affective sed effective). 

d) Contrition must furthermore be universal, i. e. } it 
must cover all the mortal sins committed by the penitent. 
As every mortal sin implies a complete turning away 
from God, no one mortal sin can be forgiven without 
the rest. 15 

It is not, however, necessary to make a special act of 
contrition for each particular mortal sin. One general 
act for all the sins committed (universe) will suffice. 

Venial sins can be forgiven severally, one without the 
other, and hence it suffices to make an act of contrition 
for one. When many venial sins are confessed, it is 
advisable to elicit a more specific contrition for the one 
or other of them, because a too general contrition might 
lack sincerity and efficaciousness. 16 To receive sacra 
mental absolution from a venial sin it is necessary to have 
at least imperfect contrition for that particular offence. 

Being the proximate matter of Penance, contrition 
must be brought into moral connexion with the Sacra- 

sibus subiecta sunt, magis quam extendant ad omnia mortalia com- 

spiritualia nos officiant, Quare tnissa, etiam memoriae non occurren- 

nonnulli interdum maiorem ex fili- tia. Ratio est, quia nullum pecca- 

orum obitu, quam ex peccati turpitu- turn actuale remtttitur sine dolore, 

dine doloris sensum capiunt." unum autem mortale sine a/to re- 

14 Cfr. St. Thomas, Summa mitti nequit, quum remissio fiat in- 
Theol., 3a, Suppl., qu. 3, art. 1-2. fusione gratiae, quae cum nullo mor- 

15 Cfr. Gury, op. cit., n. 328: tali simul stare potest." Cfr. St. 
"Universalis, i. e., excludere debet Thomas, Summa Theol., 33, qu. 86, 
omnia peccata graria, saltern impli- ad 3. 

cite vel ex motivo universali unico 16 Cfr. Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 5, qu. 

out ex pluribus motiris particulars- 29 sq. ; St. Alphonsus, Theol. Mor., 
bus, quae, saltern simul sumpto, se I, VI, n. 433, 438, 


nient, i. e., it must precede the sacramental absolution 
or be present in the soul while the formula of absolution 
is pronounced by the priest. The best way is to make 
an act of contrition before entering the confessional. 

READINGS. Pohle-Pretiss, The Sacraments, Vol. Ill, pp. 132 
sqq. Chr. Pesch, S.J., Praelectiones Dogmaticae, Vol. VII, 2nd 
ed., pp. 39 sqq. R. Schultes, O.P., Reue und Bussakrament, 
Paderborn 1907. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theol. Mor., Vol. 
Ill, pp. 296 sqq. 



I. DEFINITION. Genuine contrition, whether 
perfect or imperfect, must be accompanied by a 
firm purpose to amend one s life and to avoid 
future sins (proposition non peccandi de cetero). 
This truth may be deduced from the very nature 
of contrition, which, being a detestation of sin as 
an offense against God, must include both an act 
of sorrow for past sins (de praeterito) and the 
resolution not to sin again (de futuro). 

The purpose of amendment which is included 
in contrition may be either explicit (propositum 
explicitum sive formate) or implicit (propositum 
implicitum sive virtuale). It is explicit when 
the penitent expressly thinks of the future and 
resolves never to sin again; it is implicit if he 
merely hates sin for fear or love of God, without 
eliciting a formal act of the will not to sin in f u- 


ture. A good resolution of the latter kind is 
called virtual. 1 

The resolution to avoid sin and its proximate occasions 
for a supernatural motive is an indispensable condition 
of the valid reception of Penance. The controverted 
question whether the Sacrament requires an explicit 
(formal) resolution, or whether an implicit (virtual) pur 
pose of amendment suffices, may theoretically be decided 
in favor of the latter opinion, though in praxi it is always 
better to choose the pars tutior, i. e., to give explicit con 
sideration to the necessity of amending one s life and 
make a formal resolution to do so. A really contrite 
penitent will hardly ever fail to make an explicit purpose 
of amendment. 2 

2. PROPERTIES. The purpose of amendment, 
being an essential part of contrition, is as neces 
sary for the valid reception of Penance as con- 

1 Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., II, implicitum sufficcre debet ad valorem 
n. 342: "Proposition est vera "vo- sacramenti, dummodo dolor elicia- 
luntas non amplius peccandi de ce- tur ex motivo universali; I la sen- 
tero. Duplex est: (i) explicitum tentia affirwat, quia, licet dolor in- 
sou formale, quo quis, de futuro cludat necessario propositum, atta- 
cogitans, statuit non amplius Peccare; men propositum explicitum rcquiri- 

(a) implicitum sen virtuale, quod in tur a Tridcntino dicente in defini- 

ipsa contritione includitur, quin fu- tione contritionis : cum proposito non 

turum tempus prae ociilis habcatur." peccandi de cetera; Ilia sententia 

Cfr. Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, distinguit. Tenet non requiri propo- 

De Poenit. t c. 4: "Propositum non situm explicitum, si poenitens non 

peccandi de cetera. . . . Cessatio a cogitct de futuro, ut contingit mori- 

peccato et vitae novae propositum el bundis; secus si ad futurum adver- 

inchoatio." (Denzinger-Bannwart, n. tat. In praxi tutior sententia se- 

897). quenda est ob auctoritatcm theolo- 

2 Gury, op. cit. t n. 345: "An re- gorum, qui necessitatem propositi ex- 
quiratur propositum explicitum in plicite adstruunt, quamvis speculative 
contritionef Triplex sententia da- loquendo id parum probabile videa- 
tur: la sententia communior et valde tur. Ceterum rarissime eveniat, ut 
probabilior negat, quia propositum poenitentes vere contriti propositum 
cum tota eius efflcacia includitur in etiam explicitum omittant." Cfr. 
vtra contritione; ergo propositum Noldin, Vol. Ill, pp. 312 sq. 


trition itself, and consequently, like the latter, and 
for the same reasons, must be: 

a) Universal (propositum universale), i. e. f it 
must comprise all mortal sins which one might 
possibly commit in future and, in a general way, 
the lessening of venial sins. 3 If none but venial 
sins form the matter of confession, it is sufficient 
to resolve to avoid at least one of them, or to 
diminish the total number. 4 

b) The purpose of amendment must be firm, 
i. e., the penitent must be determined to suf 
fer any hardship rather than again offend 
God by a mortal sin. 5 Distrust of one s strength 
or fear of relapse do not impair the firmness of 
purpose which a sinner must have to amend his 
life. All that is required is that he humbly trust 
in God and be firmly determined to cooperate with 
divine grace in fighting temptations. 6 Actual re- 

s Cfr. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., proficiendi seu tollendi impedimenta 

3a, qu. 87, art. i, ad i: "Homo in spiritualis profectus, quae sunt pec~ 

gratia constitutus potest vitare omnia cata venialia." 

peccata mortalia et singula; potest 4 Cfr. J. P. Gury, Comp. Theol. 
etiam vitare singula peccata venialia, Mor., Vol. II, n. 344, 347. 
sed non omnia. . . . Et idea poeni- 5 Ibid., n. 34: "Poenitens habere 
tentia de peccatis mortalibus requi- debet voluntatem omnino determina 
nt, quod homo proponat abstinere db tarn non relabendi in peccatum, non 
omnibus et singulis peccatis mortali- obstante quocunque incommodo out 
bus, sed ad poenitentiam peccatorum timore humano, secus enim non vel- 
venialium requiritur, quod homo pro- let totaliter et sincere ad Deum con- 
ponat abstinere a singulis, non to- verti." 

men ab omnibus, quia hoc infirmi- 6 Op. cit., n. 346: "An censeri 

tas huius vitae non patitur; debet debeat firmum propositum illius, qui 

tamen habere propositum se prae- habet quidem animum non peccandi, 

parandi ad peccata venialia minu- sed credit certo se relapsurum? R. 

enda, alioquin esset ei periculum Neg. t quia practice loquendo, ille, 

deficiendi, quum desereret appetitum qui vere vult non peccare, a peccato 


lapse is not always a sign that one s purpose of 
amendment lacked firmness ; for even the strong 
est resolution may weaken and finally succumb. 7 
But when the relapsed penitent has made no 
effort, or only the weakest kind of an effort, to 
amend his life, it may reasonably be presumed 
that he had no firm purpose of amendment. 

c) Since the purpose of amendment is es 
sentially an act of the will directed to future 
performance, it must be efficacious (propositum 
efficax), that is to say, the penitent must be ready 
and willing to employ the means necessary and 
useful for the avoidance of sin, particularly to 
shun all voluntary proximate occasions 8 and to 

abstinere potest. Ergo, si credat, 7 Cfr. Matth. XXVI, 33-35; 69- 
certo se lapsurum, hoc arguit infir- 75. St. Thomas, Summa TheoL, 3a, 
mitatem propositi, aderit enitn sem- qu. 84, art. 10, ad 4: "Quod aliquis 
per divina gratia, quacum sperare de- posted peccat, vel actu vel proposito, 
bet, se non relapsurum esse. Non ta- non excludit, quin prima poeniten- 
men indispositus censendus est, qui tia vera fuerit, nunquam enim vert 
ex praeterita fragilitate lapsum per- tas prioris actus excluditur per ac- 
timescit. Hinc verum habet propo- turn contrarium subsequentem. Sic- 
situm poeniiens ille, qui interroganti ut enim vere cucurrit, qui posted 
confessario de voluntate non pec- sedet, ita vere poenituit, qui posted 
candi respondet: Fragilis sum valde, peccat." 

formido lapsum, non tamen volo 8 Cfr. Gury, Camp. Theol. Mor., 

nunc casum. In pra.ri -vero indolem II, n. 344: "Efficax [propositum], 

geniumque poenitentis inspicias. seu poenitens non tantum firmiter 

Reperies enim non raro peccatores statuere debet non amplius peccare 

asseverantes se relapsuros esse, qui velle, sed etiam adhibere operam et 

tinient, ne propositum satis firmum omnia media necessaria pro vitan- 

habeant, quin tamen aliud ostendant dis peccatis fugiendisque proximis 

praeter labendi timorem suique dif- occasionibns," etc. "Sufflcit autem, 

fidentiam. Huiusmodi poenitcntibus ut propositum sit efficax affective, id 

dicendum est, non agi de his, quae est, sufficit, ut peccator sit animo 

forte probabiliter evenient, sed de ac- paratus ad media necessaria adhi- 

tuali voluntate futurum respiciente benda, quia futura vitatio peccati 

et de fiducia summa in auxilio di- non est de essentia propositi." 
vino reftonenda." 


repair to the best of his ability whatever injury 
he may have done to others. 

The purpose of amendment which forms part of con 
trition is of great importance for the spiritual life be 
cause there can be no progress on the way to perfection 
unless one has a straight purpose and keeps it. Thomas 
a Kempis says : "According to our resolution the course 
of our progress shall be ; and he who would advance rap 
idly needeth great diligence. For if a man who maketh 
a firm resolution often faileth, how will he fare who 
hath seldom or never any fixed purpose ? In many ways, 
however, we abandon our good resolve; and a slight 
omission of our exercises seldom passeth without some 
detriment to our progress. The good resolutions of the 
just depend not so much on their own wisdom, as on the 
grace of God, in whom they also ever trust in all their 
undertakings. For man proposeth, but God disposeth; 
and the way of a man is not His. " 9 "Good resolu 
tions," says Alban Stolz, "are like blossoms that drop 
from a tree; they bring no fruit unless a man employs 
the means necessary to carry them out." 

READINGS. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theol Mor., Vol. Ill, pp. 
310 sqq. Th. Slater, S.J., Manual of Moral Theol, Vol. II, pp. 
161 sq A Lehmkuhl, S.J., Theol Mor., Vol. II, pp. 231 sqq. 
A. Tanquerey, Synopsis Theol Mor. et Past., Vol. I, 2nd ed., pp. 
77 sqq. 

dDe Imit. Christi, I, 19 (Opera Edition," by Father Thaddeus, 
Omnia, ed. Pohl, II, 32 sq.). Our O.F.M., London 1908, pp. 34 sq. 
translation is that of the "Seraphic 




I. NECESSITY. The second essential constitu 
ent of the Sacrament of Penance is confes 
sion. By confession (confessio, elo/xoAoyr/cm) 1 we 
understand the sorrowful declaration of sins 
made to a priest with the purpose of obtaining 
forgiveness through the power of the keys. 2 

Sacramental confession is of divine institu 
tion and has been embodied among the command 
ments of the Church. 3 

Every Catholic who has attained to the use of 
reason, i. e., who is able to distinguish between 
good and evil, and has sinned grievously, is 
obliged to confess his sins once a year (annua 
confessio). 4 Not age, but intellectual and moral 

1 Cone. Florent., Decretum pro delectandi causa exponamus. Verum 
Armenis: "Secunda [pars poeni- accusatorio animo ita enumeranda 
tentiae] est oris confessio: ad quam sunt, ut ea etiam in nobis vindicare 
pertinet, ut peccator omnia peccata, cupiamus. Veniae autem impetran- 
quorum memoriam habet, suo sa- dae causa peccata confitemur, quo- 
cerdoti confiteatur integraliter." niam hoc indicium longe dissimile 
(Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 699). est forensibus capitalium rerum quae- 

2 Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 5, qu. 33: siionibus, in quibus confessioni 
Earn . . . [confessionem] definiunt poena et supplicium, non culpae li- 
esse peccatorum accusationem, quae beratio et errati venia constituta 
ad Sacramenti genus pertinet, eo est." (Ed. Ratisb. 43, p. 225). Cfr. 
susceptam, ut veniam virtute clavium Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. 
impctremus. Recte autem accusatio III, pp. 181 sqq. 

dicitur, quod peccata ita commemo- 3 Cfr. John XX, 21 sqq. Cone, 

randa non sunt, quasi scelera nostra Trid., Sess. VI, ch. 14; Sess. XIV, 

ostentemus, ut ii faciunt, qui lactan- De Poenit., c. 5, can. 6-8. 

tur, quum malefeccrint (Prov. ii, 4 Cone. Lot. IV., c. 21: "Omnis 

14), out omnino enarranda, ut rem utriusque sexus fidelis, postquam ad 

oliquam gestam otiosis auditoribus annos discretionis pervenerit, . . . 


development is the decisive factor in regard to 
this obligation. Of course, the precept of an 
nual confession binds only those who have com 
mitted a mortal sin. Those who are guilty of 
venial sins only are not strictly obliged to go to 
confession at all. 5 Because of the danger of self- 
deception, however, and particularly on account 
of the respect due to the law of Easter Commun 
ion, every Catholic is advised to go to confession 
at least once a year, even though he be not con 
scious of mortal sin. 

The obligation imposed by the precept of 
annual confession is not ad finiendam, but ad ur- 
gendam obligationem. Hence if a man surely 
foresees that he will not be able to comply with his 
duty later in the year, he is bound to do it now. 

Sacramental confession, to be valid, must be made to 
the appointed priest in person, not by letter, telephone 

fideliter confiteatur. . . ." (Denzin- nemini liceat, qui scelerum conscien- 

ger-Bannwart, n. 437). Cat. Rom., tid premitur." (Ed. Ratisb. 43, p. 

P. II, c. 5, qu. 38: ". . . perspici- 228). 

tur, neminem confessionis lege ad- 5 Cfr. St. Alphonsus, Theol. Mor., 

strictum esse ante earn aetatem, qua 1. VI, n. 667: "Quaeritur an ad 

rationis usum habere potest. Neque satisfaciendum praecepto annuae 

tamen ea aetas certe aliquo annorum confessionis, qui non habet morta- 

numero definita est, sed illud uni- lia, teneatur confiteri venialia. 

verse statuendum videtur: ab eo Prima sententia affirmat. Secunda 

tempore confessionem puero indie- sententia tamen communis et verior 

tarn esse, quum inter bonum et ma- negat. Ratio, quia Ecclesia prae- 

lum discernendi -vim habet, in eius- cipiendo confessionem annuam tan- 

que mentem dolus cadere potest. turn illam confessionem praecipit, 

Nam quum ad id vitae tempus quis- quae est debita ex Christi institu- 

que pervenerit, in quo de salute tione. Christus autem nullam aliam 

aeterna deliberandum est, turn pri- praecipit confessionem nisi morta- 

mum sacerdoti peccata confiteri de- Hum." Supra, p. 138. 
bet; quum aliter salutem sperare 


or messenger. 6 The personal presence of the penitent is 
required even when oral confession is impracticable 
because the penitent is deaf or can speak no language 
known to the confessor. In the former case the avowal 
can be made by means of signs or in writing, in the latter, 
through an interpreter. In case of necessity, when oral 
confession is impossible, the penitent may manifest by 
signs the nature of his sins, his sorrow for them, and his 
wish to be absolved. 63 - 

II. PROPERTIES. The properties of confes 
sion flow from the nature and purpose of the Sac 
rament. They are: (i) Integrity, (2) Sincerity, 
and (3) Clearness. 7 

i. INTEGRITY. Confession is entire or com 
plete if the penitent avows all the mortal sins he 
has committed since Baptism or his last previous 
confession, together with their number and spe- 

6 Cfr. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., "Sit simplex, humilis, confessio, 

33, Suppl., qu. 9, art. 3; Decree of pura, fidelis, 

Clement VIII, June 20, 1602; Dec- Atque frequens, nuda, discreta, Al 
teration of Paul V, July 14, 1605 bens, verecunda, 
(Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 962, 963); Integra, secreta, lacritnabilis, acce- 
Cat. Rom., P. II. c. 5, qu. 45. To lerata, 

the query whether absolution given Fortis et accusans, et sit parere pa- 
by telephone (per telephonium) rata" 
would be valid, and, in case of ne 
cessity, licit, the S. Congregation of Th. M. J. Gousset (Theol. Mor., II, 
the Penitentiary replied: "Nihil 256) enumerates four: integritas, 
esse respondendum" (July i, 1884). simplicitas, humilitas, caritas. Gury 
Cfr. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacra- (Comp. Theol. Mor., II, n. 352) 
ments, Vol. Ill, pp. 98 sqq. thinks that only two of these quali- 

6a No one is obliged to confess ties are essential: "Multae confes- 

either in writing or through an in- sionis dotes a variis auctoribus as- 

terpreter. Cfr. Noldin, Stimma signantur, nempe ut sit integra, 

Theol. Mor., Vol. Ill, pp. 318 sqq. dolor osa, humilis, prudens, simplex, 

7 St. Thomas mentions no less nuda, verecunda, brevis, secreta et 

than sixteen, but they can all be vocalis. Ex his confessionis doti- 

reduced to the three mentioned in bus duae priores tantum snnt essen- 

the text: tiales, reliquae pertinent ad eius mo- 


cific circumstances. 8 To be able to do this prop 
erly he must examine his conscience. 

The integrity of confession (integritas confes- 
sionis) may be material or formal. It is material 
(integritas materialis) if the penitent actually 
confesses all his mortal sins; it is formal (in 
tegritas formalis) if he is willing to make a com 
plete avowal, but is prevented by physical or 
moral causes. 

a) The material integrity of confession re 
quires : 

<*) That the penitent mention all those mortal 
sins which he has not yet validly confessed. 
When he is in doubt whether or not he has 
confessed a mortal sin, or whether some par 
ticular sin is mortal or venial, the penitent is 
not bound, but (cases of scrupulousness and ur 
gent necessity excepted) earnestly advised to 
mention it. If the existing doubt is founded on 
weighty reasons (dubium prudens), it is ad 
visable that the sin (peccatum dubium) be 
confessed. Mortal sins which have been inad 
vertently omitted (forgotten) in one confession, 
must be declared in the next. If a penitent has 
purposely concealed a mortal sin, his confession 
is invalid, and he must, besides confessing his 
sacrilege, repeat all the mortal sins mentioned 

dum et perfectionem nee special* ex- Poenit., c. 5, can. 7; Cat. Rom., 
plications indigent." P. II, c. 5, qu. 40 sq. 

8 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De 


in his invalid confession, unless the confessor 
has at least a dim recollection of them. 

0) That the number of mortal sins committed 
be given as accurately as possible. If the exact 
number cannot be ascertained, it is sufficient to 
give an approximate estimate, declaring, for in 
stance, how many times the sin has been commit 
ted each day, week, or month. 

y) That the circumstances be mentioned which 
change the species of a sin or add a new species 
(circumstantiae speciem mut antes vel addentes), 
and especially those by which a venial sin becomes 
grievous (e. g., scandal). Circumstances that 
merely increase the guilt of a sin within the same 
species (circumstantiae notabiliter aggravantes) 
as a rule need not be confessed, though it is ad 
visable to do so. They must be expressly men 
tioned if they entail a censure or reservation, or 
if the confessor inquires about them with a view 
to ascertaining the disposition of the penitent or 
deciding whether restitution has to be made. 9 

Circumstances which might change an objectively 
grievous sin (i. e. t one that is grievous merely from its 
object) into a venial sin should also be mentioned. 
This is not necessary for the integrity of the Sacrament, 
but advisable because it may enable the confessor to form 
a better idea of the penitent s state of mind. 

o Cfr. Prop. Damnat. sub Innoc. alicuius consuetudinem." (Denzin- 
XI., prop. 58: "Non tenemur con- ger-Bannwart, n. 1208). 
fessario interroganti fateri peccati 


The mortal sins a man has committed, together with 
their number and specific circumstances, constitute the 
necessary matter of Penance (materia necessana). 
Venial sins are merely materia libera et sufficiens, that is 
to say, they need not be, but may and, considering the 
importance of the Sacrament, should be confessed. Pre 
viously confessed sins, whether mortal or venial, may 
be confessed again, and if properly regretted, constitute 
sufficient matter for absolution. All "the other sins, 
which do not occur [to the penitent] after diligent 
thought, are understood to be included as a whole in that 
same confession," and are summarily included in the 
usual declaration: "For these and all other sins of 
which I am not now conscious, I am heartily sorry," and 
so forth. 10 

In order to be able to confess his sins properly, the 
penitent, before approaching the sacred tribunal, should 
carefully and earnestly examine his conscience. 11 No 
time limit can be set for this important task. Circum 
stances of individuality, time, place, etc., must be taken 
into consideration. The only general rule that may be 
laid down is that the time and care devoted to the exam 
ination of conscience should be equal to that which is 
usually bestowed by prudent men upon important matters 
of business, and that there be no exaggeration or careless 
ness, lest the validity of the Sacrament be endangered 
and it become what Protestants have unjustly called it, 
a "slaughter-house of consciences." 

Material integrity of confession in the strict sense is 

10 "Reliqua peccata, quae diligen- H "Diligens sui discussio aut de 
ter cogitanti now occurrunt, in uni- bita et diligens praemeditatio." 
versum eadem confessione inclusa {Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De 
esse intelleguntur."Conc. Trident., Poenit., c. 5, can. 7). Cfr. Noldin, 
Sess. XIV, De Poenit., c. 5; cfr. Ps. Summa Theol. Mor., Vol. Ill, pp. 
XVIII, 13. 339 sqq. 


not always possible because God alone knows the hearts 
of men and can judge them infallibly. 12 

b) Confession is formally complete or entire if 
the penitent tells all the sins he is able to remem 
ber and confess, thereby proving his willingness 
to make a full avowal. 

The obstacles to material integrity are partly physical 
and partly moral. Physical obstacles are, e. g. f deafness 
or inability to speak, impossibility of finding a confessor 
who understands one s language, immediate danger of 
death, inculpable ignorance or forgetfulness. Moral ob 
stacles are: extraordinary difficulty, grave spiritual or 
temporal injury threatening the penitent, the confessor, 
or a third person; e. g., the danger of losing one s good 
name (not, however, before the confessor), serious scan 
dal, violation of the seal, etc. Such obstacles dispense 
from material integrity, provided, of course, it is morally 
impossible for the penitent to wait or to find another 
priest to whom he could make a full confession. Phys 
ical exertion, crowding of the confessionals, 13 intense 
shame 14 or the necessity of indirectly revealing an ac- 

12 Acts I, 24; XV, 8; i Cor. IV, modi confessionis difficultas oc pec- 
4. cata detegendi verecundia gravis 

13 The following proposition was quidem videri posset, nisi tot tantis- 
condemned under Innocent XI: que commodis et consolationibus 
"Licet sacramentaliter absolvere di- levaretur, quae omnibus digne ad 
midiate tantum confesses ratione hoc Sacramentum accedentibus per 
magni concursus poenitentium, qua- absolutionem certissime conferun- 
lis verbi gratia potest contingere in tur."Cfr. Gury, Comp. Theol., 
die magnae alicuius festivitatis aut Mor,, II, n. 377: "Nunquam ex- 
indulgentiae." (Prop. Damnat. sub cusat difficultas ipsi confessioni in- 
Innoc. XL, prop. 59; Denzinger- trinseca, quantumvis gravis ea sit. 
Bannwart, n. 1209). Ratio est, quia confessio ex naturd 

14 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De sua est essentialiter laboriosa, ac 
Poenit., c. 5: "Ipsa vero huius- proinde, si difficultas grams, v. g. 


complice do not excuse a penitent from making a full 
confession of his sins. 

Under no pretext is the confessor permitted to inquire 
formally for the name of an accomplice or associate in 
crime (complex peccati aut socius criminis), his place of 
residence, 15 or any circumstance that might reveal his 
identity. Nay, more, the penitent should not be allowed 
to disclose the name of his accomplice because confessor 
and penitent are both under obligation to protect the good 
name of others. But the penitent must divulge the degree 
of relationship of his accomplice if this is rendered neces 
sary by some circumstance changing the species of his sin, 
e. g., incest, and the fact that a priest is involved when the 
confessional has been abused for soliciting to impurity. 
The laws of the Church require that a priest guilty of this 
crime be reported by name to the ecclesiastical authori 
ties. If a penitent can, without great inconvenience, 
choose a confessor to whom his accomplice is unknown, 
he is in duty bound to do so. 16 

If for some physical or moral reason the penitent has 
forgotten or otherwise omitted a mortal sin in confession, 
he must mention it in his next confession, not to obtain 
forgiveness (as such sin has been forgiven indirectly by 
the grace of absolution), but to submit the forgotten sin 
formally to the power of the keys. 17 

magnet repugnantia aut verecundia, candum," Sept. 28, 1746; "Aposto- 

ob integritate excusaret, plerumque lid ministerii," Dec. 9, 1749 (Den- 

ab accusandis mortalibus excusaren- zinger-Bannwart, n. 1474). Cfr. 

tur fideles, et proinde rueret ex Gury, II, 379, 382. 

maxima parts institutio sacramenti 16 Cfr. Gopfert, III, 235 sqq. 

poenitentiae. Praeterea Ecclesia non Noldin, III, 338 sq. 

posset reservare crimina atrocia, 17 Gury, II, n. 377: "Cessante 

quia id incommodum non leve poeni- causa excusante ab integritate ma- 

tentibus creat." teriali, praeceptum divinum con- 

15 Benedict XIV., Const. "Su- fitendi omnia peccata mortalia omis- 

prema omnium," July 7, 1745; "Ubi sa iterum urget, etiam excusatio a 

primum," June 2, 1746; "Ad eradir divina confessionis lege non cessat 


The assertion of a recent Protestant writer that the 
Church in the Middle Ages compelled the faithful to 
"confess each and every sin they had committed" is 
false. 18 

2. SINCERITY. The second quality required 
for a valid confession is sincerity. Confession 
is sincere (fidelis aut sincera} if the penitent 
truthfully declares all his mortal sins with their 
number and specific circumstances. Any wilful 
attempt to misrepresent seriously the nature of a 
mortal sin committed, or the moral state of the 
soul, is sacrilegious and renders confession 
invalid, because such an act not only destroys the 
integrity of confession, but is incompatible with 
true contrition, and, moreover, makes it impossi 
ble for the confessor to judge his penitent prop 

3. CLEARNESS. Confession must be clear, that 
is, the penitent must declare his sins so as to en 
able the confessor to understand him perfectly 

simpliciter occurrente impedimenta, iacet: Peccata in confessione omissa 

sed tantum suspenditur. Cessante sen oblita ob instans periculum vitae 

igitur causa excusinte, obligatio le- aut ob aliam causam non tenemur 

gis integre reviviscit, praeceptum in sequenti confessione exprimere. 

enim confessionis non est affixum ad [Denzinger-Bannwart, n. mi]. 

tempus, nee ad circumstantiam, sed Ergo contradictoria huius proposi- 

vitam integram afficit, ita ut peccata tionis est vera: ergo necessario ac- 

nondum accusata postea necessario cusanda sunt peccata oblivione prae- 

accusanda sint, si fieri possit. Nee termissa, licet iam deleta fuerint." 

obstat, quod Ecclesia tempus con- 18 Cfr. E. Fischer, Zur Geschichte 

fessionis determinaverit, nam haec der evangelischen Beichte, Vol. I, 

determinatio non est ad finiendam, pp. 24, 34, 47; P. A. Kirsch, Zur 

sed ad urgendam obligationem. Geschichte der katholischen Beichte, 

Constat aliunde ex propositione ab pp. 186 sqq. 
Alexandra VII. damnata, quae sig 


and to form a correct opinion of the state of his 
soul. The nature of the Sacrament requires that 
the avowal of sins be made simply, clearly, hum 
bly, and contritely, for it is essentially an act of 
self-accusation, by which the penitent expects to 
obtain forgiveness and grace through the power 
of the keys confided by Christ to His Church. 19 
Needless to add, it requires courage and mortifica 
tion to make a complete, sincere, and clear confes 
sion. 20 

Regarding the form of sacramental confession, the 
Catechism of the Council of Trent says : "We must take 
care that our confession be plain, simple, and undisguised, 
not clothed in that artificial language which some employ, 
who seem rather to give an outline of their manner of 
life than to confess their sins ; for our confession should 
be such as to disclose ourselves to the priest as we 
know ourselves to be, representing as certain that which 
is certain, and as doubtful that which is doubtful. This 
good quality our confession obviously lacks if our sins 

19 Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 5, qu. 38: audent suum negare peccatum, dedi- 
"Accusatorio animo [peccata] ita gnantur rogare indulgentiam, quam 
enumeranda sunt, ut ea etiam in no- petebat, qui nullis legibus tenebatur 
bis vindicare cupiamus." humanis. Quod peccavit, conditionis 

20 St. Ambrose, Apol. Proph. est, quod supplicavit, correctionis. 
David, I, c. 4, n. 15: "Peccavit Culpam itaque incidisse naturae est, 
David, quod solent reges, sed poeni- diluisse virtutis." (Migne, P. L., 
tentiam gessit, flevit, ingemuit, quod XIV, 857). IDEM, ibid., II, c. 3, 
non solent reges. Confessus est n. 7: "Peccavit David, quod solent 
culpam, obsecravit indulgentiam, reges, sed poenitentiam gessit et 
humi stratus deploravit aerumnam, fievit, quod non solent reges. Ro- 
ieiunavit, oravit, confessionis suae gavit veniam non arrogans potesta- 
testimonium in perpetua saecula vul- tis, sed infirmitatis suae conscius; 
goto dolore transmisit. Quod eru- prostratus in terram cilicio se 
bescunt facere privati, rex non eru- operuit, oblitus imperil et memor 
buit confiteri. Qui tenentur legibus, culpae." (P. L., XIV, 890). 


are not enumerated or if topics are introduced that are 
foreign to the matter of confession. They who, in 
explaining things, observe prudence and modesty, are also 
very much to be commended, for a superfluity of words is 
to be avoided, but whatever is necessary to make known 
the nature and quality of every sin, is to be explained 
briefly and modestly." 21 

One who is morally certain that he has made an un 
worthy confession, must confess the same sins again. 

The term general confession has two meanings : ( I ) a 
declaration of guilt in general terms, as contained, e. g., 
in the Confiteor; (2) a confession in which the penitent 
repeats all or some of his former confessions. 

A general confession in the last-mentioned sense may 
extend over one s whole life or some particular period 

A general confession becomes necessary when former 
confessions were sacrilegious, either through want of sin 
cerity, sorrow, resolution, or integrity, or through grave 
negligence in the examination of conscience, etc. A gen 
eral confession is useful, though not necessary, at the 
beginning of each new epoch in life, e. g., in preparing 
for first Communion or on entering a new state of life, 
in a dangerous illness, at the time of a jubilee or mission. 
The scrupulous should be dissuaded from making fre 
quent general confessions, as this practice is apt to ag 
gravate rather than improve their condition. 22 

READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., 33, Suppl., qu. 6-10. 
J. P. Gury, Compendium Theologiae Moralis, Vol. II, n. 348- 
401. P. Schanz, Die Lehre von den hi. Sakramenten, pp. 498 
sqq., 564 sqq. Chr. Pesch, S.J., Praelectiones Dogmaticae, Vol. 

21 Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 5, qu. 43 Haringer, Anleitung zur Verwahung 
(ed. 43 Ratisb., p. 230). des hi. Bussakramentes, pp. 210 sqq. 

22 Cfr. Gury, II, n. 393~4Oi J M. 


VII, 3rd ed., pp. 76 sqq. A. Tanquerey, Synopsis Theol. Mor., 
Vol. I, pp. 82 sqq. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theol. Mor., Vol. 
Ill, pp. 315 sqq. A. Lehmkuhl, S.J., Theol Mor., Vol. II, pp. 238 
sqq. Sabetti-Barrett, S.J., Comp. Theol Mor., pp. 656 sqq. 



TION THE PENITENT (Interrogatio). This duty 
arises from the nature of the Sacrament. Pen 
ance is a tribunal of justice. When the peni 
tent s self-accusation is defective, so that the 
confessor cannot judge of the completeness of the 
avowal or the disposition of the sinner, prudent 
questioning becomes a duty. 1 Generally speak 
ing, the presumption is in favor of the penitent. 
One who voluntarily comes to confession may be 
presumed to have the right disposition and to tell 
the truth. Hence no penitent should be interro- 

1 Cone. Lat. IV., c. 21: "Sacer* dos pwdenter interroget." Cfr. 

dos sit discretus et cautus, ut more Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., Vol. II, 

periti medici superinfundat vinum et n. 461: "Confessarins tenetur in- 

oleum vulneribus sauciati, diligenter terrogare poenitentes de specie, nu- 

inquirens et peccatoris circumstan- tnero et circumstantiis peccatorum 

tias et peccati, quibus prudenter in- speciem mutantibus, eorumque cau- 

tellegat, quale debeat ei praebere sis, de habitu et occasionibus proxi- 

consilium et cuiusmodi remedium mis, quoties rationabiliter praesu- 

adhibere diversis experiments mit vel dubitat, ista non sufficienter 

utendo ad salvandum- aegrotum." declarari. Ratio est, quia confessa- 

(Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 437). rius, ut minister sacramenti, debet 

Rit. Rom., tit. 3, c. i, n. 15: "Si procurare eius integritatem, et ut iu- 

poenitens numerum et species et cir- dex, debet sibi comparare cogni- 

cumstantias peccatorum explicatu ne- tionem necessariam ad aequum iudi- 

cessorios non expresserit, eum sacer- cium ferendum," 


gated unless there is a well-founded doubt as to 
the integrity of his avowal or the absence of some 
element that is essential for the valid and worthy 
reception of the Sacrament. 

When it becomes necessary to ask questions, 
these will in the nature of the case deal with one 
of the following subjects : the number and specific 
character of one or more of the mortal sins con 
fessed; necessary circumstances; causes and oc 
casions; sinful habits; relapses, or the duty of 
restitution. Occasionally it may also be neces 
sary to question the penitent in regard to his pro 
fession or occupation, his state of life, the time 
or validity of his last confession, etc. 2 

To perform his duty effectively, the confessor, in ques 
tioning a penitent, should proceed with caution, 3 pru 
dence, 4 and discretion, especially in matters pertaining to 
the sixth and ninth commandments. 5 Besides the ques 
tions he is in duty bound to ask, others may suggest them 
selves, and here especially great prudence is necessary. 

2 Gury (Comp. Theol. Mor., II, non tenetur interrogare poeniten- 

n. 463) : "Confessarius non tenetur tern nisi cum ordinaria sollicitudine. 

interrogare poenitentes, qui, licet Ratio est, poenitens ipse non tenetur 

rudes, videntur sufficienter instruct* summa, sed tantum mediocri, id est, 

pro sua conditione et diligentes in ordinaria diligentid se examinare. 

confitendo peccata cum circumstan- Nequit autem esse gravior obligatio 

tiis iuxta statum et capacitatem confessarii, quam poenitentis, quunt 

suam. A fortiori necesse non est confessarius non teneatur examinarg 

ordinarie examinare eos, qui saepe poenitentem nisi secundario sen 

confitentur et raro peccant graviter, ipsius defectu." 

ut sunt personae devotae, religiosi, * Cone. Lat. IV., c. 21; Rit. Rom., 

eccJesiastici, nisi videatur ab eis tit. 3, c. i, n. 15. 

omitti aliquid necessario explican- 6 Cfr. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch der 

dum." Moraltheologie, p. 219. 

8 Op. cit., n. 462 : "Confessarius 


By working upon the emotions of a well disposed penitent 
the confessor can often prepare the way for grace. 6 

This duty arises from the office of teacher, which 
a priest is bound to exercise whenever he finds a 
penitent to be ignorant of what is necessary for 
the integrity of confession or of the disposition 
required for the worthy reception of the Sacra 

a) Hence the confessor is in duty bound to in 
struct every penitent who is either vincibly and 
culpably or invincibly ignorant of the truths nec 
essary for salvation and the more important du 
ties of life. When a penitent is invincibly igno 
rant in regard to some of these duties, the con 
fessor should not instruct him unless he has good 
reason to think that his advice will be heeded, 
lest what was purely a material sin should be- 

6 Rif. Rom., tit. 3, c. i, n. 46: mitti, vel ex quibus discat peccare 

" Sacerdos caveat, ne curiosis aut poenitens vel de inverecundis in- 

inutilibus interrogationibus quern- verecunde vel de numero nimis 

quam detineat, praesertim iuniores anxie." (Ed. Gaude, III, 653). 

utriusque sexus vel alias de eo, quod Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., II, n. 

ignorant, imprudenter interrogans, 463 : "Interrogate semper debet 

ne scandalum patiantur indeque pec- esse moderata, discreta, opportuna, 

care discant." Cfr. St. Alphonsus, et omnibus circumstantiis qualitatis, 

Theol. Mor., 1. VI, n. 629: "Ne aetatis, conditionis poenitentis con- 

exatnen sit curiosum de non neces- grua. Sic reverentia sacramenti, de- 

sariis, unde confessarii existimatio, centia natitralis, caritas et prudentia 

sacramenti dignitas et poenitentis erga poenitentes requirere videntur." 

profectus minuatur; ne sit indiscre- P. A. Kirsch, Zur Geschichte der 

turn, v. g., de Us, quae moraliter kath. Beichte, pp. 212 sq. 
cerium csi, a tali non solere com- 


come a formal sin. The same rule holds good 
whenever there is reason to apprehend that in 
struction of the penitent would result in quarrels, 
enmity, scandal, or other serious evil. 

When a confessor has reason to doubt whether 
instruction is likely to prove useful, he had better 
say nothing. 7 

b) If the penitent asks for instruction, it 
should always be given regardless of its probable 
effect. However, in such cases the confessor had 
better not go beyond the question asked, unless 
additional instruction is sure to prove beneficial. 
For instance, if a penitent has married in spite of 
the vow of chastity, and asks whether the mar 
riage is valid and whether he is allowed to ren 
der the debitum, the confessor should reply in the 
affirmative, without informing the penitent that 
he has no right to demand that which he may 

c) The confessor is obliged to remove invinci 
ble ignorance by instruction whenever failure to 
do so would result in injury to the common good, 
or whenever it can reasonably be expected that 
the penitent will obey, either now or later; or 

7 Cfr. St. Alphonsus, Theol. Mor. t pensare debet damnum et utile, item 

1. VI, n. 616: "Utrum autem gradum timoris damni ac spei utili- 

facienda sit monitio in dubio, an sit tatis, et eligere id, quod iudicat prae- 

profutura vel obfutura? Responde- ponderare. Ceterum in dubio regu- 

tur: Si non timetur de damno, larder mihi videtur dicendum, quod 

omnino quidem fieri debet; si vero mala formalia potius evitanda sint, 

dubitatur tarn de damno quam de quant materialia." (Ed. Gaude, III, 

fructu secuturo, tune confessarins 641). 


if the penitent would otherwise remain in proxi 
mate danger of formal sin, or his ignorance 
would result in spiritual injury to himself, e. g. f 
by regarding as sinful something which is per 

In applying these rules it is necessary to proceed with 
caution. "Some theologians assume," says Linsenmann, 
"that there is a species of error in moral matters which the 
confessor had better leave untouched, in other words, that 
the penitent runs less danger of committing formal sin if 
he transgresses a moral law ignorantly and in good faith, 
than if he is instructed with regard to his error. This 
assumption is scarcely ever founded in fact. An error 
that involves no moral danger either to the penitent or to 
others, cannot possibly have reference to the substance of 
the moral law, but will invariably pertain to purely human 
precepts of minor importance. If the penitent were un 
willing to accept instruction in a matter involving mortal 
sin, and only in such a case would it be the confessor s 
duty to instruct him, he would be incapable of receiving 
absolution." 8 

READINGS. St. Alphonsus, Theologia Moralis, 1. VI, n. 607-616 
(ed. Gaude, Vol. Ill, pp. 631 sqq.). H. Noldin, S.J., Summa 
Theol. Mor., Vol. Ill, pp. 462 sqq. A. Tanquerey, Synopsis Theol. 
Mor. et Past., Vol. I, pp. 195 sqq. F. A. Gopfert, Moraltheologie, 
Vol. Ill, 5th ed., pp. 234 sqq. J. E. Primer, Lehrbuch der Pa- 
storaltheologie, Vol. I, 2nd ed., pp. 247 sqq., 255 sqq. F. P. Ken- 
rick, Theologia Moralis, Vol. II, 2nd ed., Malines 1861, pp. 256 
sqq. Al. Sabetti, SJ., Compendium Theologiae Moralis, 22nd ed. 
(by T. Barrett, SJ.), New York 1915, pp. 745 sqq. 

8 Linsenmann, Lehrbuch der Moraltheologie, p. 219. 




1. DEFINITION. By the seal of confession 
(sigillum confessionis, secretum sacrament ale) 
is understood the obligation of keeping secret 
knowledge gained through sacramental confes 
sion. 1 

confession binds the confessor and (per accident) 
all others who have knowledge of the matter of a 
sacramental confession through whatever means. 
It is absolute and, per se, admits of no exception. 

As for the penitent, though not bound by the 
seal, he is obliged to treat confessional matter as 
a natural secret, so far at least as the dignity of 
the Sacrament or regard for the confessor de 

The obligation of the seal rests on the natural, 
on positive divine, and on ecclesiastical law. 2 

1 Cfr. H. Busembaum, S.J., Me- ligatio inviolabiliter servandi sigillum 
dulla Theol. Mor., 1. VI, tr. 4, c. 3: confessionis. Constat (i) ex iure 
"Sigillum hoc est obligatio iuris di- naturali, et quidem triplici titulo, 
vini strictissima in omni casu, etiam nempe ex caritate, ex iustitia, ex 
quo integri regni salus periclitarc- religione; (2) ex iure divino posi- 
tur, ad tacendum (etiam post mortem tivo, saltern implicite, nam ex insti- 
poenitentis) dicta in confessione (id tutione Cl:risti confessio secreta esse 
est in ordine ad absolutionem sacra- debet, ergo eo ipso a Christo imposita 
mentalem) omnia, quorum revelatio est confessariis obligatio sigilli ser~ 
sacramentum redderet onerosum vel vandi; (3) ex iure ecclesiastico ; con- 
odiosum." (Ed. Tornac., 1876; Vol. stat ex variis iuris canonici locis, 
I P- 573)- praesertim ex Concilia Lateranensi 

2 Cfr. Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., quarto, c. 21: Utriusque sexus 
II, n. 495: "Datur strictissima ob~ ubi dicitur: Caveat autem omnino 


a) The natural law commands silence regarding that 
which is communicated in confidence. When a man goes 
to confession, he expects that his secret will be locked in 
the bosom of the confessor. Hence to keep the seal in 
violate is a matter of strict natural duty. In many coun 
tries the civil law treats the revelation of any secret com 
municated in confidence as a misdemeanor. 

b) The positive divine law demands the inviolability of 
the seal because it is a necessary condition of the enforce 
ment of the precept of confession. "Confession could 
not be enforced," says Bishop Linsenmann, "if priests 
were not bound to the strictest secrecy concerning that 
which is revealed to them in the confessional. Hence 
the seal is justified, not only by the interest of the penitent, 
but by the interest of confession itself." 3 "The divine 
command to confess one s sins," says Dr. Krieg, "would 
be an intolerable burden if the penitent were not assured 
of silence on the part of the confessor." 4 

c) The law of the Church forbids the revelation of sac- 
ramentally confessed sins under severe penalties. 8 

gation of keeping the seal binds every confessor 
under pain of mortal sin. It :s absolute, i. e., ad 
mits of no parvitas materiae, at least directly. 6 

[confessarius], ne verbo out signo "Sacramentale sigillum inviolabile 

aut olio quo-vis modo aliquatenus pro- est; quare caveat diligenter conies- 

dot peccatorem: sed si prudentiore sarius, ne verbo aut signo aut alio 

consilio indiguerit, illud absque ulla quovis modo et quavis de causa pro- 

expressione personae caute re- dat aliquatenus peccatorem." On 

quirat . . ." (Denzinger-Bannwart, the penalties cfr. J. Hollweck, Die 

n. 438). kirchlichen Strafgesetze, Mayence, 

3 F. X. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch 1899, pp. 332 sqq.; J. Laurentius, 
der Moraltheologie, p. 220. S.J., Inst. luris Eccles., n. 456, 546. 

4 Krieg, Wissenschaft der Seelen- 6 Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., II, n. 
leitung, Vol. I, p. 515. 497: ". . . saltern in revelatione di- 

6 Codex luris Can., can. 889, i : recta. Ratio est, quia materia, 


Nor does it cease with the death of the penitent, 
but binds always and for ever, regardless of 
the inconveniences that may arise for the confes 
sor, the penitent, a third party, or the common 
welfare. 7 The confessor is not allowed to re 
mind the penitent outside of confession of any 
thing he has heard in the sacred tribunal, much 
less to communicate confessional matter to oth 
ers. 8 

In some countries the civil law expressly ad 
mits the right, nay upholds the duty of the con 
fessor to preserve the seal of confession, though 
sometimes with restrictions which Catholic 
theology cannot approve. 9 Whether confession 
made to a priest is privileged in English law is a 
matter of doubt. 10 In the United States of 
America the position of the question at common 
law is the same as in England, but some of the 
States have made the privilege a matter of statu 
tory law. 11 

What a priest hears in sacramental confession, 

etiam levissima, includit totam ra- causa assequendi vel mali fugiendi 

tionem praecepti." istud malum odii sacramenti com- 

1 Gury, op. cit., n. 495 : "Obli- pensare potest." 

gatio sigilli confessionis semper in 8 Cfr. N. Knopp, Der kath. Seel- 

omni casu urget, ita ut in nullo casu sorger als Zeuge vor Gericht, Ratis- 

possibili liceat revelare quidquam in bon 1849. 

confessione auditum et acceptum. 9 F. H. Vering, Lehrbuch des 

Obligatio enim sigilli confessionis Kir chenre elites, 3rd ed., Freiburg 

nullam patitur exceptionem ex eo 1893, pp. 211, 739 sqq. 

quod, si aliqua posset dari exceptio, 10 Cfr. R. S. Nolan in the Cath. 

semper homines timerent, ne tale Encyclopedia, XIII, 649 sqq. 

peccatum foret ilia causa frangendi 11 C. Zollmann, American Civil 

licite sigillum, et proinde odiosum Church Law, N. Y., 1917, pp. 333 sq. 
evaderet sacramentum. Porro nulla 


he hears not as a man, but as the representative 
of God, and hence, when asked as a private in 
dividual, he may deny knowledge which he pos 
sesses only from confession. In acting thus he 
does not employ a purely mental reservation be 
cause every one knows that a priest, if asked 
for information, even in court, answers merely 
as a man, and not as the vicar of God. 12 The 
case would be different if he were expressly 
asked whether he knew of a thing through con 
fession. He would then not be allowed to say no 
because this would be a manifest untruth or 
might involve a violation of the seal an un 
truth if he really had the knowledge which he 
was asked to betray ; a violation of the seal if he 
knew nothing about the matter in question. His 
duty in such an emergency would be to denounce 
the question as improper and refuse to answer 
even at the risk of life. 13 

The penitent may permit the confessor to use knowl 
edge obtained through sacramental confession, provided 

12 St. Thomas, Summa Theol., 33, audivisse, quia nullam habet scien- 

Supplem., qu. n, art. i,, ad 3: tiam communicabilem. Ita omnes." 

"Homo non adducitur in testi- G. Estius, Comment, in Sent., IV, 

monium nisi ut homo, et idea sine dist. 17, n. 14: "Sensus responsi- 

laesione conscientiae potest iurare, onis erit: Nescio eo cognitionis 

se nescire, quod scit tantum ut modo, secundum quern teneor, tibi 

Deus." St. Alphonsus, Theol. Mor., interroganti respondere." Cfr. A. 

J. VI, n. 646. J. P. Gury, Comp. Lehmkuhl, S.J., Casus Conscien- 

Theol. Mor., II, n. 497: "Quid con- tiae, Vol. I, 2nd ed., n. 574. 

fessarius respondere debeat inter- 13 Cfr. F. Lorinser, Die Lehre von 

roganti de auditis in confessione? der Verwaltung des hi. Bussakra- 

Respondeat, etiam cum iuramento, tnentes, 2nd ed., p. 37. 
si opus sit. se nihil scire, vel nihil 


such permission be restricted to the penitent s own sins, 
(exclusively, say, of the sins of an accomplice) and no 
detriment is likely to accrue therefrom to the sanctity of 
the Sacrament; provided, furthermore, that no scandal 
be given. 

Should a penitent wish to consult his confessor outside 
the confessional in regard to something mentioned in 
confession, the confessor may consider this an implicit 
permission to use his sacramental knowledge. 14 

It is no violation of the seal, though, as a rule, inadvis 
able for the confessor to mention previously confessed 
sins in a later confession. 15 

The confessor may, if he sees fit, add something to his 
admonition, immediately after absolution, before the peni 
tent leaves the confessional, and this without special per 
mission of the penitent, because of the moral union with 
the confession just made. 

When a priest is in doubt whether information that falls 
under the seal has come to him through confession or by 
some other channel, he is obliged to observe the secretum 

4. THE OBJECT OF THE SEAL. The obliga 
tion of keeping secret knowledge gained through 

14 Cfr. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch der quidem verbum facer e poenitenti 
Moraltheologie, p. 222. circa ea, quae ad eius confessionem 

15 Cfr. Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor. t pertinent, sine ipsius licentia. Ex* 
II, n. 499: "An confessarius possit cipe, nisi ipse poenitens prior de 
loqui cum poenitente de ipsius con- sud conscientia loquatur vel nisi 
fessione? (i) Potest loqui in con- confessarius certo sciat, id poeni- 
fessione de omnibus confessionibus tenti gratum fore." 

praeteritis. (2) Potest etiam loqui 16 Cfr. St. Alphonsus, Theol. 

post absolutionem, antequam poeni- Mor., 1. VI, n. 633; Gury, Comp. 

tens discesserit vel si redierit. Ra- Theol. Mor., II, n. 497: "Confessa- 

tio est t quia licet complctum sit rius ad sigillum tenetur etiam in 

sacramentum, tamen indicium adhuc dubio, an aliquid dictum sit a poeni- 

moraliter perseverat. (3) Non pot- tente in erdine ad confessionem." 
est extra sacriim tribunal ne ullutn 


sacramental confession embraces everything that 
might prove disagreeable or injurious to the peni 
tent or tend to render the Sacrament odious; in 
particular : 

a) All sins revealed by the penitent, venial as 
well as mortal, together with their attending 
circumstances and the names and deeds of ac 
complices ; 

b) The penance imposed, and whatever might 
betray the fact that absolution was denied; 

c) Physical or moral defects of the penitent, 
e. g., illegitimate birth, scrupulosity, impatience, 
in so far as these defects are known to the confes 
sor only through confession; 

d) Virtues, special graces or prerogatives, the 
disclosure of which might cause the penitent or 
others pain or inconvenience; 

e) The fact that one has gone to confession, 
if the penitent wishes to conceal it or if his in 
terests demand secrecy. 17 

The confessor is bound to abstain from all words, 
signs, or other indications from which the nature of the 
matter revealed to him in confession or anything that falls 
under the seal might be inferred. Hence he is not per 
mitted to deny holy Communion to a penitent whom he 
has refused to absolve, provided, of course, he knows of 
his unworthiness only through confession, and the peni 
tent demands the Holy Eucharist in the ordinary way. 18 

17 Cfr. St. Alphonsus, Theologia 18 Cone. Lat. IV., c. 21 (Denzin- 

Mor., 1. VI, n. 640-644; Gury, ger-Bannwart, n. 437 sq.) 
Comp. Theol. Mor., II, n. 502-504. 


ject of the seal we mean the person bound to ob 
serve it. That person is primarily the confessor 
or any layman who may have wrongfully im 
personated a priest in the tribunal of penance ; 19 
secondarily, all who have cooperated in confes 
sion, e. g. f the superior to whom the penitent has 
applied for absolution from reserved sins; the 
interpreter through whom he has confessed his 
sins; any one whom the confessor, with the 
penitent s permission, has consulted or asked for 
advice, or who has written out the penitent s sins 
at his request, or who has accidentally (casu) or 
purposely (furtive) overheard the confession or 
otherwise obtained a knowledge of it. 20 

Any one who has read, or heard read, the notes 

19 Cfr. St. Alphonsus, Theol. ordinatis: (i) ex ipsa confessione, 
Mor., 1. VI, n. 645. Gury, Comp. nam res accusata ad illos pervenit 
Theol. Mor., II, n. 498: "Tenetur eadem ratione, propter quam ob- 
primario ad sigillum confessarius ligatio sigilli datur, scilicet, ne odium 
quilibit, sive verus sive fictus, et per in sacramentum creetur; (2) ex 
errorem legitimus existimatus, et pro* mediis, nam odium mediorum in 
inde etiam laicus, qui se sacerdotem finem ipsum redundat. Hinc ad 
fingeret et confessionem exciperet. sigillum tenentur: (i) interpretes 
Ratio est, quia quoties quis confite- adhibiti in confessione peragenda; 
tur in ordine ad sacramentum, qui (2) superiores, a quibus extra sacra- 
eum audit, quicunque sit, contrahit mentum petitur facultas absolvendi 
eo ipso sigilli obligationem ; secus vel recipiendi absolutionem a casu 
enim odium sacramenti inde sequere- reservato; (3) qui peccatum, dum 
tur. Ita.omnes." quis confitetur, sive de industria 

20 Codex luris Canonici, can. 889, sive etiam inculpabiliter audiunt, 
I 2. Cf. Gury, Compendium Theol. et pariter alii, qui ab istis audirent; 
Mor., Vol. II, n. 498: "Tenentur (4) qui scribunt confessionem ru- 
secundario, qui confessionis fiunt diutn vel ignorantium linguam con- 
participes, seu ii omnes, ad quos fessarii, quoties vix alio modo con- 
notitia confessionis quocunque fessio peragi posset; (5) doctores 
modo pervenit, sive ex ipsa con- a confessario consulti, de licentia 
fessione, sive ex mediis ad illam poenitentis; (6) ii omnes, quibus 


which served another as a necessary means of 
confessing his sins, (e. g., in the case of a deaf- 
mute) is obliged to keep the sacramental seal; 
otherwise the duty of silence is purely natural. 


As the obligation of secrecy arises solely from sacra 
mental confession (ex omni et sold confessione sacramen- 
tali), a fictitious confession knowingly made to a 
layman or to an unauthorized priest does not impose the 
sacramental seal, but merely entails the natural obligation 
of keeping secret whatever is communicated in confi 
dence. 22 

6. VIOLATION OF THE SEAL. The seal of 
confession can be broken (violatio, laesio sive 
f radio sigilli sacrament alis) either directly or 
indirectly. 23 

a) It would be a direct breach of the seal were 

confessarius sacrilege vel impru- Contra, si quis conscientiam confes- 

denter peccata in confessione au- sario aperiat sine voluntate absolu- 

dita manifestasset." tionem suscipiendi, sed ut consilium 

21 Cfr. St. Alphonsus, Theol. obtineat vel ut mandato superiorly 
Mor., 1. VI, n. 645-650 (Ed. Gaude, aliquo modo satisfaciat, adest obli- 
III, 665) ; Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., gatio sigilli sacramentalis." 

II, n. 498. 23 Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., II, 

22 Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., II, n. 505: "Sigillum duplici modo 
n. 496: "(i) Confessio, quae scien- -violari potest: (i) Directe revelando 
ter fit laico vel sacerdoti iurisdictione expresse aliquid ex sola confessione 
carenti, non inducit obligationem cognitum, v. g., si dicatur: Titus 
sigUli, sed tantum secreti naturalis. hoc fecit, etc.; (2) Indirecte aliquid 
Secus dicendum est, si sacerdos dicendo aut faciendo, ex quo quis 
credatur approbatus, quia confessio cognoscere aut suspicari possit pec- 
ex parte poenitentis vera est sacra- catum vel delictum poenitentis in 
mentalis. (2) Si quis ad confes- sola confessione cognitum, aut ex 
sarium accedat animo eum decipi- quo poenitenti vel aliis, v. g. com- 
endi, irridendi, in peccatum pertra- plicibus, possit oriri pudor, mole- 
hendi, aliquid ab eo extorquendi, non stia, dedecus, damnum vel quodli- 
se accusat in or dine ad sacramen- bet gravamen." 

turn, et nulla est obligatio. (3) 


a priest to name a penitent and say he has 
committed such and such a sin, of which he (the 
priest) has knowledge only through confession, or 
to say that the penitent told him such a sin in 
confession. Any direct breach of the seal, even 
if the sins revealed are but slight, is a grievous 
violation of justice and a sacrilege. 233 " It is 
called complete (violatio plena) if it includes the 
name of the penitent, the character of his sin, and 
the fact that he confessed it. When one of 
these details is lacking, the violation is termed 
partial (partialis). 

b) The seal is broken indirectly when the con 
fessor says or does, or omits to say or do, some 
thing from which others may gain a knowledge 
of confessional matter, or by which a penitent 
may be justly aggrieved or confession made odi 
ous. 24 Such an indirect violation of the seal is 
merely a venial sin when the danger of publicity 
is slight or the carelessness of the confessor not 
grievously sinful. 

Direct violation of the seal admits of no par-vitas mate- 
riac, whereas indirect violation does. Thus the matter 
would be slight, and the sin consequently venial, if a con 
fessor would reveal something he had heard in confes 
sion through inadvertence, in the firm belief that the 
identity of the penitent was unknown or the danger of its 
being guessed extremely slight. 

23a Codex luris Can., can. 889. 24 Cfr. Gury, op. cit., II, n. 506- 



Priests who hear confession should never converse 
about matters heard in the confessional with lay persons, 
and with fellow priests only to seek advice or instruction, 
and always with great caution (tecto nomine), so that 
there is no danger of the seal being violated. 

A confessor violates the seal also by saying that a cer 
tain sin is rife in a community (parish, monastery, semi 
nary), especially if the community is small. 25 

Knowledge gained in the confessional may not be used 
by superiors for the external government of their subjects 
as such a proceeding is apt to annoy the penitents, or to 
render the Sacrament odious, or to lead to an indirect 
breach of the seal. 26 

Provided the seal is kept intact, a confessor may, if 
necessary, communicate information obtained in sacra 
mental confession to prudent and experienced persons for 
the purpose of seeking advice, but beyond this, he must 
observe strict silence. 27 

25 St. Alphonsus, Theol. Mor., que prodere queant, de submissis in 
1. VI, n. 654. J. P. Gury, Comp. sacramentali confessione clavium 
Theol. Mor., II, n. 508: "An fran- potestati sive in privatis collocutio- 
gat sigillum, qui dicit, tale vitium nibus sive in publicis ad populum 
regnare in civitate vel pago, out concionibus (ad auditorum, ut aiunt, 
ibi gravia, crimina committif aedificationem) temere sermonem 
AMrmatur, si locus sit satis angu- facere non vereantur. Cum autem 
stus, v. g. si non constet tribus ho- in re tanti ponderis et momenti 
minum millibus circiter. Secus, si nedum perfectam et consummatam 
oppidum sit amplum et crimina pub- iniuriam sed et omnem iniuriae spe- 
lica saepius ibi patrentur." ciem et suspicionem studiosissime vi- 

26 Cfr. Th. Slater, A Manual of tari oporteat, palam est omnibus 
Moral Theology, Vol. II, p. 232. quam mos hiusmodi sit improbandus. 
The new Codex luris Canonici, can. Nam etsi id fiat salvo substantialiter 
890, forbids such use absolutely. secreto sacramentali, pias tamen au- 

27 Cfr. the Instructio S. R. et U. dientium aures hand offendere et 
Inquisitionis of June 9, 1915, which diffidentiam in eorum animis haud 
says, inter alia: "Non desunt excitare sane non potest. Quod 
nihilominus quandoque salutaris quidem ab huius sacramenti natura 
huius sacramenti administri, qui, re- prorsus est alienum, quo dementis- 
ticitis quamquam omnibus quae simus DJHS, quae per fragilitatem 
poenitentis personam quomodocun- humanae conversationis peccata com- 


READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, Supplementum, qu. 
II, art. 1-5. St. Alphonsus, Theologia Moralis, 1. V, n. 633-661. 
F. X. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch der Moraltheologie, pp. 220 sqq. 
A. Lehmknhl, S.J., Casus Conscientiae, Vol. II, 3rd ed., Freiburg 
1907, n. 530-580. Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of Moral Theology, 
Vol. II, pp. 228 sqq. Addis and Arnold s Catholic Dictionary, 9th 
ed. (by T. B. Scannell), London 1917, pp. 766 sq R. S. Nolan 
in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XIII, pp. 649-665- Bedeley, 
Privilege of Religious Confession in English Courts of Justice, 
London 1865. Hopwood, The Law of Confession in Criminal 
Cases, London 1871. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theologiae Mor~ 
alis, Vol. Ill, nth ed., pp. 4Qi sqq., Innsbruck 1914. B. Kurtscheid, 
O.F.M., Das Beichtsiegel in seiner gcschichl. Entwicklung, Frei 
burg, 1912. (Engl. ed. by Marks-Preuss, St. Louis 1928). 
Honore, Le Secret de la Confession, Louvain 1924. On the In- 
structio of June 9, 1915, see S. Woywod, O.F.M., in the Homilctic 
and Pastoral Review, Oct., 1924, Vol. XXV, No. i, pp. 64 sqq. 



The priest, sitting as a judge in the tribunal of 
Penance, is not free to loose or bind at pleasure. 
He is the servant of Christ and dispenser of the 
mysteries of God, and as such in duty bound, on 
the one hand to uphold the dignity of the Sacra 
ment, and, on the other, to safeguard the spirit- 

misimus, misericordissimae suae nee directe neque indirecte (exceptct 

pietatis venia penitus abstergit atque casu necessariae consultations iuxta 

omnino obliviscitur. Sacerdotes sibi regulas a probatis auctoribus traditas 

subditos sedulo edoceri curent [Ordi- proponendae) in suis sen publicis sen 

Han t], ne quid unquam, occasione privatis sermonibus attingere aude- 

praesertim sacrarum missionum et ant; eosque in experimentis pro 

exercitiorum spiritualium ad confes- eorum habilitatione ad confessiones 

sionis sacramentalis materiam perti- excipiendas hoc super re peculiariter 

nens, quavis sub forma et quovis examinari iubeant." Ferreres, Comp. 

tub praetextu, ne obiter quidem et Theol. Mor. t Vol. II, n. 771 sq. 


ual welfare of his penitents. 1 Hence arises the 
strict obligation of either giving sacramental ab 
solution or denying or deferring the same accord 
ing to the dictates of conscience. 2 

The confessor is bound in strict justice, and under 
pain of mortal sin, to absolve all properly dis 
posed penitents who confess to him; for every 
Catholic who is truly sorry for his sins has a 
right to the Sacrament of which absolution is an 
essential part. 3 The presumption, as we have 
seen before, is always in favor of the penitent, 
and unless a confessor has serious reasons for 
assuming the contrary, he should act on the ethi 
cal principle that every man must be presumed 
to be good until or unless he is proved to be bad 
(nemo praesumitur mains nisi probetur). All 
that is necessary is to have moral certainty that 

1 i Cor. IV, 1-2. St. Thomas, bet ius ad sacramentum suscipien- 
Summa TheoL, 33, Suppl., qu. 18, dum. Secus enim onus intolerable 
art. 4. sine iusta causa poenitenti impone- 

2 Rit. Rom., tit. 3, c. i, n. 22: retur, scilicet, ut apud alium con- 
"Videat dilig enter sacerdos, quando fessionem instituat, quin confidere 
et quibus conferenda vel deneganda tuto possit, se ab isto novo confes- 
vel differenda sit absolutio, ne ab- sario absolutionem esse accepturum. 
solvat eos, qui talis beneficii sunt Praeterea !wc etiam exigit finis in- 
incapaces." stitutionis sacramenti et tribunalis 

3 Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., II, n. poenitentiae, quod misericordiae im- 
467: " Absolutio concedi debet ex pertiendae causa a Christ o institu- 
iustitia et sub gravi omni poenitenti turn est. Sacerdos igitur absolu- 
rite confesso et legitime disposito. tionetn poenitenti disposito dene- 
Ratio est, quia in ipso confessionis gando iniuste ageret, potestate cla- 
actu initus est quidam quasi-contrac- vium abuteretur et odiosum red- 
tus sacer, vi cuius poenitens rite deret sacramentum." 

confessus et legitime dispositus ha- 


there are no valid reasons for doubting the dis 
position of the penitent. 4 

The validity of absolution in no way depends 
on the performance of the satisfaction imposed. 5 

Absolution should be given conditionally: 
a) When the confessor entertains a serious doubt with 
regard to one of the following points : 

a) Whether there is sufficient matter for the adminis 
tration of the Sacrament; 

/?) Whether he has already absolved the penitent ; 
y) Whether he possesses the necessary jurisdiction; 
8) Whether the penitent has the use of reason; 
c) Whether the penitent is dead or alive. 

b) When the confessor can arrive at no certain con 
clusion with regard to the penitent s disposition, and 
absolution cannot be deferred, he should absolve con 
ditionally. 6 

The confessor is obliged in justice and under 
pain of mortal sin to deny absolution to applicants 
who are not properly disposed, because such are 
unworthy of forgiveness. 7 

*Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 5, QU. 50: 7 Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., II, n. 

"Si [confessarius], audita confes- 469: "Absolutio omnino neganda 

sione, iudicarerit, neque in enume- est in omni casu, etiam extremae 

randis peccatis diligentiam neque in necessitates, poenitentibus certe in- 

detestandis dolorem poenitenti dispositis." Lacroix, Theol. Mor., 

omnino defuisse, absolvi poterit." 1. VI, P. 2, n. 1699: "Munus con- 

& Prop. Damnat. ab Alex. VIII., fessarii est absolvere dispositum et 

Dec. 7, 1690, prop. 16-18 (Den- non a/turn. Moraliter ei consiare 

zinger-Bannwart, n. 1306 sqq.). debet de bona disposition poeniten- 

6 Cfr. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch der tis, alias absohendo peccabit mortali- 

Moraltheologic, pp. 232 sq.; Go- ter." 
pfert, Moraltheologie, Vol. Ill, 4th 
ed., pp. 241 sqq. 


A penitent lacks the right disposition if he: 

a) is ignorant of the principal dogmas of the 
Catholic religion; 

b) shows no real sorrow for his sins or evi 
dently lacks the required purpose of avoiding mor 
tal sin and its voluntary proximate occasions ; 

c) refuses to restore ill-gotten goods to their 
rightful owner, or to repair public scandal given, 
or to become reconciled to his enemies. 8 

In a word, absolution must be denied to all who 
are unwilling to comply with some serious ob 

Before the confessor discharges a penitent un- 
absolved, however, he should try by all means 
in his power to dispose him for the worthy recep 
tion of the Sacrament. 9 

When a penitent is properly disposed, and capable of 
receiving absolution, but guilty of some sin that makes 
his case one reserved to higher authority, he cannot be ab 
solved without special faculties. 10 

As a rule absolution may be reserved or 

8 Kit. Rom., tit. 3, c. i, n. 22: 9 Cfr. Leo XII, Constit. "Caritate 

"Quales [incapaces] sunt, qui nulla Christi," Dec. 25, 1825. 

dant signa doloris, qui odia et inimi- 10 Rit. Rom., 1. c.: "[Sacerdos] 

citias deponere out aliena, si pos- neque etiam eos absolvat, quorum 

sunt, restituere out proximam pec- peccata sunt superioribus reservata." 

candi occasionem deserere out alio Cfr. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch der 

modo peccata derelinquere et iritam Moraltheologie, pp. 222 sqq. ; Hilar- 

t n melius emendare nolunt, out qui ius a Sexten, Tract, de Censuris Ec- 

publicum scandalum dederunt, nisi cles., Mayence 1898, pp. 20 sqq. 
publice satisfaciant et scandalum tol- 


postponed only when the disposition of the peni 
tent is in doubt and there is no urgent necessity 
(danger of death, etc.) which would justify the 
giving of conditional absolution. 11 In the case 
of certain occasional (occasionarii), habitual 
(consuetudinarii) or relapsed sinners (recidivi), 
regarding whom it is doubtful whether they have 
real contrition for their sins or the required 
purpose of amendment, it is sometimes necessary 
to reserve absolution. 12 Occasionally, too, it may 
be well to withhold absolution temporarily in 
order to promote the spiritual welfare of a well- 
disposed penitent, either with, or under certain 
conditions without, his consent. 13 

However, absolution should not be deferred as 
a means of amendment (remedium animae) un 
less the confessor is certain that the penitent will 
be benefitted by this measure. 


11 Gury, /. c. : "Poenitentibus poenitens dispositus ius habet ad ab- 
dubie dispositis absolutio neganda solutionetn, non tamen idea itts 
est extra casum gravis necessitatis; habet ad earn statim absque ulla 
posita autem tali necessitate abso- mora obtinendam, saltern per se lo- 
lutio sub conditione impertiri potest quendo. Nam confessarius non est 
cut etiam debet." tantum iudex, sed et medicus, ideo- 

12 St. Alphonsus, Theol. Mor., 1. que recte potest, immo aliquando 
VI, n. 452-464. debet, absolutionem differre, si iudi- 

13 IDEM, ibid., n. 462. IDEM, cet tale remedium animae poenitentis 
Praxis Confess., n. 76. Gury, notabiliter profuturum esse. . . . 
Comp. Theol. Mor., II, n. 468: "Ab- Dixi, saltern per se loquendo, quia 
solutio differri potest ad breve tern- si absolutio differri nequeat sine 
pus etiam poenitenti rite disposito magno incommodo poenitentis, 
sine eius consensu, quando nempe statim concedenda foret, poenitens 
confessarius (pntdenter) iudicat, id enim tune ius strictum ad earn sta- 
utile esse ad eius emendationem. tim obtinendam habere censetur." 
Ratio est, quia dilatio absolutionis 14 St. Alphonsus, Theol. Mor., 1. 
non est eiusdem denegatio, et licet VI, n. 463: "Magnum dubium. 


The practice of reserving or postponing absolution as a 
means of amendment seems to have been unknown in for 
mer times. 15 Modern writers recommend it even in the 
case of penitents guilty of venial sins only. "To defer 
absolution," says one author, "may be useful, nay neces 
sary, even when the penitent is guilty only of venial sin ; 
for instance, if the confessor sees that the venial sins of 
which the penitent accuses himself, will gradually lead to 
mortal sin (dangerous company-keeping, undue intimacy 
with persons of the other sex, etc.), or that the venial sins 
to which the penitent is addicted, impede his spiritual 
progress, as in the case of priests and religious, whose 
state of life obliges them to greater perfection, and in the 
case of lay persons who are frequent communicants." 

Note, however, that the Codex (can. 886) says: "If 
a confessor has no reason to doubt the disposition of the 
penitent, and the latter begs to be absolved, absolution 
should neither be denied nor deferred." 

READINGS. St. Alphonsus, Theologia Moralis, I. VI, n. 431, 462. 
IDEM, Praxis Confessariorum, n. 19 sqq. J. P. Gury, Compen 
dium Theologiae Moralis, Vol. II, n. 467-469. F. Lorinser, Die 
Lehre von der Verwaltung des hi. Bussakramentes, 2nd ed., pp. 
51 sqq. A. Schick and F. D. Schmitt, Kurze Anleitung zur Ver 
waltung des hi. Bussakramentes, 3rd ed., Fulda 1905. Instructio 
Pastoralis Eystettensis, 5th ed., Freiburg 1902, pp. 256 sqq. Fr. 
Ter Haar, C.SS.R., De Occasionariis et Recidivis, Turin 1927. 

quod vertitur, est, an hoc remediutn poenitenti disposito diffcratur abso- 

dilatae absolutionis saepius expediat lutio. Melius dicendum, quod certa 

adhibere vel ne poenitenti iam suf- regula in hoc statui non possit, 

ficienter disposito ad absolutionem sed confessarius ex circumstantiis oc- 

sine eius consensu. Commune est currentibus se dirigere dcbet, et post- 

apud doctores, nullo modo expedire quam Deo se commendamt, ut erit a 

absolutionem differre, quando dilatio Deo inspiratus, absolutionem differat 

magis obfutura quam profutura cen- vel impertiatur." 

setur. Idem dicendum, quum ex 15 Gury-Ballerini-Palmieri, Comp. 

dilations absolutionis poenitens pa- Theol. Mor. t Vol. II, i4th ed., Rome 

teretur notam infamiae. . . . Alii 1902, n. 433. 
vero dicunt, raro expedire, quod 




1. NECESSITY. The necessity of imposing a 
sacramental satisfaction or penance (satisfactio 
vel poenitentia} arises from the nature of the 
Sacrament. 1 However, since satisfaction is 
merely an integral part of Penance, absolution 
would be valid even if the confessor imposed no 
satisfaction or if the penitent failed to perform 
the penance imposed. Still, for the valid and 
worthy reception of the Sacrament it is essential 
that the penitent be willing to receive and per 
form the sacramental satisfaction imposed by the 

2. DUTY OF THE CONFESSOR. As a faithful 
"steward of the mysteries of God/ 2 the confes 
sor is in duty bound to impose upon every peni 
tent a sacramental penance. Since this penance 
is intended as a satisfaction for the sins com 
mitted, as a remedy for the wounds of the soul, 
and as an antidote against future sins, it should 
be proportioned to the penitent s guilt and 
adapted to age, sex, profession, disposition, etc. 3 

1 Cone. Trident., Sess. VI, c. 14; 3 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, Dt 
Sess. XIV, De Poenit., c. 8, can. Poenit., c. 8; Sess. XXIV, cap. 8, 
12-15. St. Thomas, Summo Theol., De Reform. Rit. Rom., tit. 3, c. i, 
33, Suppl., qu. 12-15. St. Alphon- n. 18-21: "Postremo salutarem et 
sus, Theol. Mor., 1. VI, n. 506-530 convenientem satisfactionem, quan- 
(ed. Gaude, III, 516). turn spiritus et prudentia suggesse- 

2 i Cor. IV, 1-2. rint, iniungat, habita ratione status, 

i8 4 


tent is strictly obliged to perform the penance 
imposed, provided, of course, it be just and rea 
sonable. 4 To go to confession with the express 
purpose of not accepting or not performing the 
penance imposed, would be to receive the Sacra 
ment invalidly as well as unworthily. 5 

If a penitent deems the appointed penance too 
severe, or unacceptable for some other reason, he 
may ask to have it commuted or consult another 
priest. 6 

conditionis, sexus, et aetatis et item 
dispositionis poenitentium. Videat- 
que, ne pro peccatis gravibus levis- 
simas poenitentias imponat, ne si 
forte peccatis conniveat, alienorum 
peccatorum particeps efficiatur. Id 
vero ante oculos habeat, ut satisfac- 
tio non sit tantum ad novae vitae 
remedium et infirmitatis medicamen- 
tum, sed etiam ad praeteritorum pec 
catorum castigationem. Quare curet, 
quantum fieri potest, ut contrarias 
peccatis poenitentias iniungat, veluti 
avaris elemosynas, libidinosis ieiunia 
vel alias carnis afflictiones, superbis 
humilitatis officia, desidiosis devo- 
tionis studio. Rarius autem vel 
serius confitentibus vel in peccata 
facile recidentibus utilissimum fuerit 
consulere, ut saepe, puta semel in 
mense vel certis diebus solemnibus, 
confiteantur et, si expediat, communi- 
cent. Poenitentias pecuniarias sibi 
ipsis confessarii non applicent neque 
a popnitentibus quidquam tamquam 
ministerii sui premium petant vel ac- 
cipiant. Pro peccatis occultis, quan- 
tumvis gravibus, manifestam poe- 
nitentiam non imponant." Gury, 
Comp. Theol. Mor., II, n. 402: 
"Confessarius tenetur poenitentias 
iniungere convenientes et salutares, 

turn vindicativas turn medicinales: 
scilicet aliquo modo proportionatas 
numero et gravitati peccatorum nee 
non poenitentis facultatibus ac dis- 
positionibus. Ratio ex natura rei 
patet, quum sacramentalis satisfac- 
tio ordinata sit in vindictam pecca 
torum, quae maiora vel minora, plura 
vel pauciora sunt, nee non ad novas 
culpas praecavendas." 

4 Cfr. Gury, op. cit., II, n. 409: 
"Poenitens omnino tenetur, acceptors 
atque implere rationabilem poeniten- 
tiam sacramentaliter iniunctam, quia 
poenitentiae acceptatio ad sacramenti 
essentiam et eiits impletio ad sacra 
menti integritatem pertinet." 

5 St. Alphonsus, Theol. Mor., 1. 
VI, n. 516: "Dubitatur, an poeni- 
tens teneatur acceptare iustam poeni- 
tentiam, quam imponit confessarius. 
. . . Sententia communis et vera 
. . . dicit, peccare qui poenitentiatn 
non acceptat vel non vult implere, 
et absolutionem vult recipere. Ra 
tio, quia, ut docet Benedictus XIV., 
sicut confessarius iustam tenetur 
iniungere poenitentiam, ita poenitens 
tenetur illam acceptare." 

6 St. Alphonsus, Theol. Mor., 1. 
VI, n. 516: "Probabile tamen est, 
quod, si poenitenti videatur poeni- 



Failure to perform a reasonable penance im 
posed for mortal sins and accepted in the confes 
sional, is a mortal sin, unless the matter involved 
is small or some weighty reason diminishes the 
guilt. 7 

A penitent is not free to substitute some other 
penance for the one imposed, but he may, for 
good reasons, ask in a subsequent confession to 
have his penance commuted either by the same or 
by a different confessor. 8 

Besides conscientiously performing the penance imposed 
in confession, penitents are bound to atone for their sins 

tentia ilia iusto gravior out nimis 
onerosa, respectu ad suam imbecil~ 
litatem, tune, si confessarius nollet 
earn moderari, posset saltern sine 
culpa gravi discedere absque absolu- 
tione et alium adire confessarium. 
Hoc tamen intellegendum, si poeni- 
tentia ilia vere sit irrationabilis vel 
impar debilibus viribus poenitentis. 
Nam si contra poenitentia facile 
posset ab eo impleri, et nollet ex 
mera desidid illam acceptare, ac cum 
levi absolvi vellet, non videtur 
posse excusari a peccato gravi, quia, 
ut bene ait Lugo, sicut peccaret sa- 
cerdos imponendo levem poeniten- 
tiam sine iusta causa pro gravibus 
culpis, ita peccaret poenitens volens 
sine causa recipere absolutionem 
cum poenitentia iusto leviori." 

1 Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., II, n. 
409: "Poenitens tenetur sub gravi 
implere poenitentiam gravem pro 
gravibus peccatis impositam, quia 
materia gravis per se obligat sub 
gravi. Ita omnes. Probabilius au- 
tem sub levi tantum obligatur poeni 
tens ad poenitentiam levem pro levi- 
bus culpis impositam, quia materia 

levis non est capax gravis obliga- 

8Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of 
Moral Theology, Vol. II, p. 174. 
Gury, Comp. Theol Mor., II, n. 
412: "Quis poenitentiam commu- 
tare possit? I. Nunquam ab ipso 
poenitente commutari potest, ne in 
melius quidem, quia poenitentia ne- 
quit ad sacramentalis satisfactionis 
meritum elevari, nisi a ministro ipso 
sacramenti poenitentiae imposita 
fuerit. II. Commutari potest: (i) 
a proprio confessario seu ab eo, a 
quo imposita est, quia legislator pot 
est propriam I eg em mutare ; (2) a 
quolibet alio confessario ad confes- 
siones audiendas approbato, quia 
quilibet alius confessarius potest esse 
eiusdem causae iudex, si poenitens 
illius tribunali se submittat, succes 
sor enim in eadem auctoritate potest 
quidquid potuit antecessor. Sed ad 
commutationem licite faciendam re- 
quiritur causa iusta, qualis est: (i) 
si poenitentia videatur nimis diffi- 
cilis; (2) si praevideatur poenitens 
non esse ei satisfacturus ob nimiam 
repugnantiam, fragilitatem, oblivi- 
onem, etc" 


by voluntary good works (prayer, fasting, almsgiving, 
humility, patience, resignation to the will of God, mortifi 
cation, and self-denial). The duty of giving satisfaction 
in this wider sense implies a strenuous effort to neutralize 
the evil consequences of sin by making restitution of ill- 
gotten goods, repairing scandal, etc. 9 

4. INDULGENCES. Indulgences are an effective means 
of making satisfaction and intensifying penitential zeal. 10 
An indulgence is a remission of temporal punishments due 
to sin. 11 No one is bound to gain indulgences, but it is a 
very salutary practice to avail oneself of this privilege. 
The Tridentine Council "teaches and enjoins that the use 
of indulgences for the Christian people, most salutary and 
approved by the authority of sacred councils, is to be 
retained in the Church." 12 To gain an indulgence one 
must be in the state of sanctifying grace and have the right 
intention (intentio lucrandi). The good works prescribed 
must be conscientiously performed. 13 When confession 

9 Cfr. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch der Comp. Theol. Mor., II, n. 834). 
Moraltheologie, p. 236; Th. H. 12 Cone. Trident., Sess. XXV, De 
Simar, Lehrbuch der Moraltheologie, Indulg.: "Indulgentiarum usus 
3rd ed., p. 361. christiano populo maxime salutaris 

10 St. Thomas, Summa Theol., 33, et sacrorum conciliorum auctoritate 
SuppL, qu. 25-27. St. Alphonsus, approbatus." 

Theol. Mor., 1. VI, n. 531-534. 13 St. Alphonsus, Theol. Mor., 1. 
Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., II, n. VI, n. 533. Gury, Comp. Theol. 
834-853. F. Beringer, Die Ablasse, Mor., II, n. 837: "Quattuor requi- 
nth ed., Paderborn 1906. A. M. runtur in subjecto ad indulgentias 
Lepicier, Indulgences, New York lucrandas: (i) Ut sit baptizatus, 
1906. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacra- quia thesaurus Ecclesiae infidelibus 
ments, Vol. Ill, 2nd ed., pp. 232 dispensari nequit, ut patet; nee sit 
sqq. Chr. Pesch, Praelect. Dogmat., excommunicatus, quia secus com- 
Vol. VII, 2nd ed., pp. 199 sqq. P. munione bonorum spiritualium pri- 
Mocchegiani, Collectio Indulgenti- -varetur; (2) Ut sit subditus con- 
arum, Quaracchi 1897. cedentis; (3) Ut opera iniuncta tern- 

11 "Indulgentia est remissio pore praescripto impleat, quia sub 
poenae temporalis Deo pro peccatis hac conditione conceduntur indulgen- 
quoad culpam remissis debitae, con- tiae; (4) Ut sit in statu gratiae, 
cessa a legitimo ministro, extra sa- saltern quando ultimum opus prae- 
cramentum poenitentiae per applica- scriptum ponit, quia non remittitur 
tionem thesauri Ecclesiae. 1 (Gury, poena, nisi dimissa culpa." 


and communion are prescribed for the gaining of a plenary 
indulgence, both conditions must be complied with, even 
though the conscience is not burdened with mortal sins. 14 

The so-called jubilee indulgence (iubilaeum mains, an- 
nus sanctus) differs from an ordinary plenary indulgence 
chiefly in this that the confessors enjoy larger faculties. 15 

In view of the fact that every indulgence presupposes 
a more than ordinary measure of penitence, faith, and 
worship, and that the gaining of indulgences usually leads 
to greater frequentation of the Sacraments, the moral ef 
fect of the Catholic doctrine of indulgences must be rated 
very high. 16 Gaining an indulgence always involves con 
trition, penitence, and a firm purpose of amendment. 17 

READINGS. St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, 3a, Suppl., qu. 12- 
15. St. Alphonsus, Theologia Moralis, 1. VI, n. 506-530 (ed. 
Gaude, Vol. Ill, p. 516). Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. 
Ill, pp. 217 sqq. Th. Slater, S.J., A Manual of Moral Theology, 
Vol. II, pp. 171 sqq., 443 sqq. Sabetti-Barrett, S.J., Compendium 
Theologiae Moralis, pp. 682 sqq., 1058 sqq. Ad. Tanquerey, S.S., 
Synopsis Theologiae Moralis, Vol. I, pp. 124 sqq., 277 sqq. M. J. 
O Donnell, "Penance in the New Code," in the Irish Ecclesiastical 
Record, No. 601 (Jan. 1918), pp. 14-24. 

14 See the Constitutions of Bene- 17 E. Goller (Die papstliche Poni- 

diet XIV, "Accepimus in civitate," tentiarie -von ihrem Ursprung bis zu 

1746, and "Inter praeteritos," 1749. ihrer Umgestaltung unter Pius V. t 

The confession may be made Vol. I, Rome 1907, pp. 213-242) 

within eight days, and Communion shows that the concept of indulgen- 

received on the vigil of the day to tia plenaria is genetically contained 

which the indulgence is attached. in the most ancient penitential let- 

Codex lur. Can., Can. 931, i. ters or confessionalia. He refutes 

See also 2 of same canon. the Protestant contention that the 

16 H. Thurston, S.J., The Holy Church by indulgences meant to 

Year of Jubilee, London 1900; IDEM forgive the guilt rather than the 

in the Cath. Encyclopedia, s. v.; P. punishment of sin and demonstrates 

Bastien, De lubilaeo Anni Sancti that the remissio peccatorum or 

aliisque lubilaeis, Maredsous 1901. remissio culpae always depended on 

16 See Linsenmann, Lehrbuch der valid confession. 
Moraltheologie, p. 237. 



rament of Extreme Unction (extrema unctio) 
was instituted for the corporal as well as spirit 
ual well-being of the sick. One of its spe 
cial effects is to confer upon the dying the grace 
of a happy death. While it is essential for the 
validity of this Sacrament that the recipient be 
seriously ill or, as the technical phrase runs, in 
periculo mortis, 1 it is altogether immaterial 
whether this condition be due to disease or 
to old age. 2 Hence the sacra infirmorum unctio 
may not be administered to persons who are ex- 

i Jas. V, 14-15. Cfr. the Deere- rant, curatione indigeant: idcirco iis 

turn pro Armenis of Eugene IV: etiam, qui adeo periculose aegrotare 

"Hoc sacramentum nisi infirmo, de videntur, ut, ne supremus illis vitae 

cuius morte timetur, darinon debet." dies instet, metuendum sit, hoc sa- 

(Denzinger-Bannwart, n. 595). cramentum praeberi debet." 

The Council of Trent says (Sess. 2 Rit. Rom., tit. 5, c. i, n. 5: 

XIV, De Extr. Unct. t c. 3) : "De- "Debet hoc sacramentum infirmis 

claratur etiam, esse hanc unctionem praeberi, qui quum ad usum rationis 

infirmis adhibendam, illis vero prae- pervenerint, tarn graviter laborant, ut 

sertim, qui tarn periculose decum- mortis periculum imminere videa- 

bunt, ut in exitu vitae constitute vi- tur, et iis, qui prae senio deficiunt et 

deantur, unde et sacramentum ex- in diem videntur morituri, etiam sine 

euntium nuncupatur." Cfr. Cat. alia infirmitate." "Senectus est 

Rom., P. II, c. 6, qu. 9: "Quum morbus," was a received axiom 

igitur illi tantum, qui morbo labo- among the Scholastics. 



posed to the danger of death but are not se 
riously ill, e. g., soldiers going into battle, con 
demned criminals preparing for execution, etc. 
The Sacrament may, however, be given to those 
in danger of dying from an operation or after 
confinement, but not to those who have not yet at 
tained the use of reason or have not committed a 
personal sin, that is to say, infants and perma 
nently insane adults (perpetuo amentes). 3 If an 
insane person enjoyed the use of reason at any 
moment of his previous life, or has occasional lu 
cid intervals, he may and should be given Extreme 
Unction, 4 because a habitual and interpretative 
intention suffices for the valid reception of this 
Sacrament, and there is a well-founded presump 
tion that many insane persons temporarily regain 
the use of reason at the approach of death, 
though they are unable to manifest their sanity by 
definite signs. 

S Cat. Rom. f P. II, c. 6, qu. 9. prope organa quibus carent, nam 

Rit. Rom., tit. 5, c. i, qu. 9; cfr. etsi exterius per ilia non peccave- 

Codex luris Canonici, can. 940, 941, tint, per interior es tamen animae po- 

943. Cfr. H. Noldin, S. J., Summa tentias, quibus ea respondent, pec- 

Theologiae Morahs, nth ed., Inns- care potuerunt." 

bruck 1914, Vol. Ill, pp. 543 sqq. 4 Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 6, qu. 9: 

J. P. Gury, Compendium Theol. ". . ad hoc sacramentum susct 

Mor., Vol. II, n. 519, says: piendum apti non sunt . . . amentes 

"Subiectum huius sacramenti sunt item et furiosi, nisi interdum ra- 

omnes et soli homines peccatores de tionis usum haberent, et eo potissi- 

vita periclitantes. Hinc (i) huius mum tempore pii animi significa- 

sacramenti capaces non sunt pueri tionem darent, peterentque ut sacro 

ante usum rationis nee perpetuo oleo ungerentur. Nam qui ab ipso 

amentes, quia nulla peccata actualia ortu nunquam mentis et rationis com- 

commiserunt; (2) potest confcrri ex- pos fuit, ungendus non est ; secus 

trema unctio mutis, surdis et caecis vero si aegrotus, quum mente adhuc 

a nativitate, possunt enim inungi integra huius sacramenti particeps 


Extreme Unction may be administered to a 
sick man who is really or apparently unconscious, 
provided there is reason to think that he would 
ask for, or at least not refuse, the Sacrament if 
he had full control of his faculties. 5 

Even impenitent sinners and those who have 
lost consciousness while in the act of sinning 
(e. g., habitual drunkards) should not be de 
prived of Extreme Unction, unless they con 
sciously and positively refuse to receive the Sac 
rament, because a possible subsequent attrition 
would make it operative. 6 

In conformity with the axiom, "In dubio pars 
tutior est eligenda," 7 the Sacrament of Extreme 
Unction may be validly and licitly administered 
if the danger of death is merely probable or even 

fieri -voluisset, postea in insaniam et out signum doloris de peccatis osten- 

furorem incidit." derint." 

5 Kit. Rom. } tit. 5, c. i, n. 6: 6 Rit. Rom., tit. 5, c. i, n. 8: 

"Infirmis autem qui, dum sana "Jmpenitentibus vero et qui in 

mente et integris sensibus essent, manifesto peccato mortali moriuntur 

illud petierint seu verisimiliter pe- et excommunicatis et nondum bap- 

tiissent, seu dederint signa contri- tizatis penitus denegetur." 
tionis, etiamsi deinde loquelam ami- 1 Cfr. St. Alphonsus, Theol. Mor. f 

serint vel amentes effecti sint, vel 1. VI, n. 714. J. P. Gury, Comp. 

delirent out non sentiant, nihilo- Theol. Mor., Vol. II, n. 520: 

minus praebeatur." Ibid., n. 7: "An hoc sacramentum licite conferri 

"Sed si infirmus, dum phrenesi aut possit aegroto in periculo mortis du- 

amentid laborat, verisimiliter posset bio seu probabili? Affirmatur cum 

quidquam facere contra reverentiam sententia communi et vera, quia ad 

sacramenti, non inungatur, nisi peri- ministrandum hoc sacramentum va- 

culum tollatur animo." Cfr. Gury, lide et licite sufficit, ut infirmus la- 

Comp. Theol. Mor<, II, n. 520: boret morbo ita gravi, ut prudenter 

"Debet dari hoc sacramentum deli- existimetur versari in periculo pro- 

rantibus, si ante petiverint aut pe- ximo mortis." 
tituri fuissent, si de hoc cogitassent, 


The name Extreme Unction or Last Anointing, which 
is of popular origin, is not a very fortunate one because 
of the implication that the Sacrament forebodes death. 
But as this name correctly describes the primary purpose 
of the rite, i. e., to prepare and fortify the soul for its 
last journey, it was adopted by the Church after it had 
obtained currency among the people. The Council of 
Trent employs the older term, "sacra infirmorum 
unctio" and the modern " extrema unctio" indiscrimi 

As Father Kern has pointed out, the custom, which has 
grown wide-spread since the twelfth century, of demand 
ing and administering Extreme Unction only when all 
hope of recovery has vanished and death is imminent, "is 
opposed to the usage of the ancient Church and owes its 
existence to such causes as popular superstition, false 
theological teaching, and avarice, which have nothing 
in common with the operation of the Holy Ghost. 
This deplorable practice endangers to a very large extent 
the attainment of the object for which Extreme Unction 
was instituted by Christ. The principal effect of this 
Sacrament is the supernatural strengthening of the sick 
in order to enable them to bear the sufferings and tempta 
tions by which they are harassed, for the honor of God, 
so that, to apply St. Paul s dictum, that which is at pres 
ent momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for 
us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of 
glory. 8 This supernatural strengthening of soul and 
body is intended also to induce the sick man, with the 
extraordinary assistance of divine mercy, to which he is 
commended in the name of Christ, to make acts of con 
fidence, resignation, patience, contrition, and charity, and 

83 Cor. IV, 17. 


thereby to obtain forgiveness of his sins and the com 
plete remission of the temporal punishments due to them. 
Thus he will be ready, when God calls him hence, to enter 
straightway into eternal bliss, without passing through the 
fiery furnace of purification. It was for this reason that 
the early Christians appropriately called Extreme Unction 
sanantis divinae gratiae dulcedo Its true purpose is 
to restore the soul to complete health and to prepare it 
for immediate entrance into glory. This is intimated by 
the Fathers, clearly expressed in the liturgical prayers 
of the ancient Church, taught as a revealed truth by the 
leading Scholastics including Bl. Albert the Great, St. 
Thomas, St. Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, Richard a Media- 
villa, Peter de Palude, Innocent V, Aureolus, and Capreo- 
lus and acknowledged by the Council of Trent. It 
often happens that the full recovery of the soul involves 
such a strong alleviation of bodily suffering that the power 
of disease is broken and physical recovery follows. In 
that case the fruition of eternal beatitude is postponed, but 
it will be all the more glorious if he to whom the privilege 
has been granted cooperates with the graces bestowed 
by this wonderful Sacrament." 9 

Though Extreme Unction is not strictly neces 
sary for salvation, every Catholic who is danger 
ously ill, is in duty bound to receive this Sacra 
ment, and should receive it as soon as there is 
probable danger of death, and not wait till he 
has become unconscious or entered into agony. 10 

9 J. Kern, S.J., in the Zeitschrift 10 Cfr. St. Alphonsus, Theol. 

fur kath. Theologie, Innsbruck 1906, Mor., 1. VI, n. 733; Gury, Cotnp. 
pp. 617 sqq. Theol. Mor., II, n. 522. 


Hence when it is possible to receive this Sacra 
ment, a Catholic in danger of death is bound 
under pain of mortal sin to ask for it, if failure 
to do so would give grave scandal or involve con 
tempt of the Sacrament, 11 or if Extreme Unction 
were the only Sacrament the patient was still able 
to receive. According to the commonly accepted 
teaching of St. Thomas, however, refusal to do 
so is not per se a mortal sin. 

The state of grace is required for the worthy reception 
of Extreme Unction, and hence the administration of this 
Sacrament is generally preceded by Confession and Com 
munion. Extreme Unction, in fact, is the consummation 
of Penance. 12 When Penance and Holy Communion can 
no longer be administered, it is sufficient that the patient 
give a sign of contrition, or, if he be unconscious, that he 
may be reasonably presumed to desire the Sacraments of 
the dying. 

The positive disposition required for the worthy re 
ception of Extreme Unction consists in acts of faith and 
hope, and confidence in God s mercy. 13 The Roman 
Catechism admonishes pastors to preach often on Ex- 

11 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De quiratur ad huius sacramenti sus- 
Extr. Unct., c. 3: "Neque vero ceptionemf (i) Peccatorum con- 
tanti sacramenti contemptus absque fessio, si infirmus in mortali verse- 
ingenti scelere et ipsius Spiritus tur, hoc enim sacramentum est 
Sancti iniuria esse potest." poenitentiae complementum ideoque 

12 Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De haec praecedere debet. (2) Quodsi 
Extr. Unct., c. 3; Cat. Rom., P. II, infirmus non possit sua peccata con- 
c. 6, qu. 12; Pohle-Preuss, The Sac- fiteri, contritio saltern praecedat tie- 
raments, Vol. IV, p. i, 2nd ed., St. cesse est, hoc enim extremae unc- 
Louis 1918. tionis sacramentum est primario sa- 

13 Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 6, qu. 9: cramentum vivorum et ad reliquias 
"Fides et religiosa animi voluntas." peccatorum tollendas praecipue in- 
Cfr. Gury, Comp. Theol. Mor., II, stitutum fuit. Verum in tali casu 
n. 523: "Quaenam dispositio re- ipsa attritio sufficere posse videtur, 


treme Unction in order to remind the faithful of their last 
end and to aid them in repressing evil desires and leading 
a good Christian life. 14 

TION. Every pastor engaged in the cure of souls 
is bound in justice and under pain of mortal sin 
(ex iustitia et sub gram) to administer Extreme 
Unction, either himself or through another 
priest, whenever he is asked to do so and able to 
comply with the request. There are, however, 
excuses exempting him from this obligation, 
e. g. } serious danger to his own life arising from 
contagious disease or other causes, but even this 
excuse would not be valid unless he were sure that 
the patient to whom he is called is properly pre 
pared for death. Needless to say, a good shep 
herd will risk his life for his sheep, especially if 
there are no other priests available. Priests who 
are not pastors are bound to administer this Sac 
rament under pain of mortal sin only ex caritate 
in case of extreme necessity. 1411 

A special duty incumbent upon pastors is to 
administer Extreme Unction in time, i. e. } before 
the patient has lost consciousness and all reason 
able hope for his recovery has vanished. This 
obligation is shared by relatives, physicians, and 

est enim simul et mortuorum sacra- 14. Cone. Trident., Sess. XIV, De 

tnentum, et peccata mortalia remit- Extr. Unct., Prooem. 

tere cum attritione potest." I4a Codex luris Can., c. 938 sq. 
14 Cat. Rom., P. II. c. 6, qu. i, 


nurses, who should see to it that the priest is called 
before it is too late. To leave a Catholic die 
without the Sacrament of Extreme Unction is 
often a mortal sin. 15 The duty of calling the priest 
and administering Extreme Unction arises also 
when the patient, after having at least partially 
recovered his health, again falls dangerously ill. 


Extreme Unction should be administered whenever 
there is actual danger of death. Here, if anywhere, 
the principle applies: "In extremis extrema sunt ten- 
tanda." However, care must be taken not to administer 
the Sacrament prematurely, because it can be received but 
once (semel tantum) in the course of the same illness, 
i. e., the same danger of death. 

The anointments must be given according to the Ritual. 
In urgent necessity one anointment (on the forehead), 
with the abbreviated formula, is sufficient, though if the 
patient live long enough, the omitted anointments 
must be supplied. 17 The anointment of the loins is now 
always omitted. 18 The anointment of the feet may be 
omitted for any reasonable cause. 19 

Holy Communion, which should be given to the sick 

15 Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 6, qu. 9: Sess. XIV, De Extr. Unct., c. 3. 
". . . gravissime peccant, qui illud Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 6, qu. 9, u. 
tempus aegroti ungendi observare Rit. Rom., tit. 5, c. i, n. 14: "In 
solent, quum iam omni salutis spe eadem infirmitate hoc sacr amentum 
amissa, vita et sensibus carere in- iterari non debet, nisi diuturna sit; 
cipiat; constat enim, ad uberiorem ut si, quum infirmus conraluerit, 
sacramenti gratiam percipiendam iterttm in periculum mortis incidat." 
plurimitm valere, si aegrotus, quum Cfr. J. Kern, S.J., De Sacr. Extr. 
in eo adhuc intcgra mens et ratio Unctionis, pp. 331 sqq. 

viget, fidemque et religiosam animi 17 Codex luris Can., can. 947, i. 

voluntatem afferre potest, sacro oleo 18 Codex luris Can., can. 947, 2. 

liniatur." 19 Codex luris Can., can. 947, 3. 

16 Cfr. John XI, 3 ; Cone. Trident., 


frequently, should be administered as viaticum (per mo- 
dum viatici) when it seems reasonably certain that the 
patient will not be able to receive it again. 20 

READINGS. Th. Slater, S.J., A Compendium of Moral Theology, 
Vol. II, pp. 233 sqq. Sabetti-Barrett, S.J., Compendium Theolo- 
giae Moralis, pp. 766 sqq. F. P. Kenrick, Theologia Moralis, Vol. 
II, pp. 261 sqq. J. Kern, S.J., De Sacramento Extremae Unc- 
tionis, Ratisbon 1907. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. IV, 
pp. i sqq. P. J. Hanley, Treatise on the Sacrament of Extreme 
Unction, New York 1907. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theologiae 
Moralis, Vol. Ill, nth ed., Innsbruck 1914, pp. 521 sqq. M. J. 
O Donnell, "Extreme Unction in the New Code," in the Irish 
Ecclesiastical Record, No. 604 (April 1918), pp. 286-297. Stan. 
Woywod, O.F.M., in the Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. LIX, No. 
2 (Aug. 1918), pp. 155 sqq. 

20 Rit. Rom., tit. 4, c. 4, n. 16-17. 



The Sacrament of Holy Orders (sacramentum 
ordinis) confers special graces as well as rights 
and prerogatives. It likewise imposes certain 
vocational duties and assigns to the recipient a 
permanent place in the ecclesiastical hierarchy 
(ordo). By means of this Sacrament the Cath 
olic Church preserves and propagates the priest 
hood, to which are entrusted the ordinary preach 
ing of the Gospel and the administration of the 
Sacraments. 1 From the nature of this Sacra 
ment flow the following duties for clerics in par 
ticular and the faithful in general. 

The candidate for Holy Orders must first of all 
have a true vocation for the clerical state. "They 
are said to be called by God," says the Roman 
Catechism, "who are called by the lawful min 
isters of the Church" 2 (external vocation). 

1 Matt. XXVIII, 18 sqq.; John 1903, pp. 427 sqq.; A. Mulders, La 
XX, 21 sqq.; i Cor. IV, i sq. Vocation an Sacerdoce, Bruges 1925; 

2 Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 7, qu. 3. Vermeersch-Kempf, Relig. and EC- 
J. Coppin, La Vocation, Bruxelles cles. Vocation, St. Louis 1925. 



The candidate must, secondly, be actuated by 
pure motives in choosing the clerical state; that 
is to say, he must desire to promote the glory of 
God and cooperate in the salvation of souls, to 
the exclusion of all worldly motives, such as am 
bition, greed, a desire to rule, etc. Only of those 
who embrace the ecclesiastical state at the call of 
God and for the purpose of serving Him can it 
be truly said that they "enter the Church by the 
door." "He that entereth not by the door into 
the sheepfold, but climbeth up another way [for 
the sake of gain or advancement], the same is a 
thief and a robber/ and commits a sacrilege. 3 

The candidate for Holy Orders must, third, 
be properly prepared for the dignity and holiness 
of the priesthood. The required preparation is 
twofold, intellectual and moral. The intellectual 
preparation as a rule is provided by the sem 
inary, and consists in acquiring the knowledge 
and mental attainments necessary for the per 
formance of clerical duties. The moral prepara 
tion is partly mediate and partly immediate. 
The mediate preparation for the priesthood con 
sists in acquiring the virtues necessary for its 
fruitful exercise by prayer, obedience, purity, 
mortification, etc. The immediate preparation 
consists in the performance of certain prescribed 

3 John VIII, 49 sq.; X, 10; XVII, i Pet. V, i sqq. Cat. Rom., P. II, 
4; Eph. IV, ii sqq.; 2 Tim. II, 10; c. 7, qu. 4. 


exercises, a spiritual retreat, receiving the Sac 
raments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, etc. 4 
Moral and mental fitness, as well as an ardent love 
for the ecclesiastical state constitute what may 
be styled internal vocation. 

It goes without saying that the canonical con 
ditions prescribed for the reception of major Or 
ders must be conscientiously complied with. 5 

THIS SACRAMENT. Every Catholic is personally 
interested in a worthy and competent priesthood, 
and hence all are in duty bound to cooperate with 
the Church in providing this necessary instru 
ment for the salvation of souls. The laity can do 
this, first, by following Christ s advice to ask 
God to send competent laborers into His vine 
yard. 6 Prayers to this effect should be said 
especially on ember days. Second, by contribu 
ting to the erection and support of seminaries, 
by aiding poor students, by inducing their sons 
to enter the service of the Church, or at least not 
preventing them from entering that service when 
they show signs of a true vocation. Third, by 
upholding the dignity of the priesthood, respect 
ing their pastors, 7 protecting them against insult, 
providing for their wants, in fine, by honoring 

4 St. Thomas, Summa TheoL, 33, 6 Matt. IX, 36-38. 

Suppl., qu. 36, art. 1-2. Cat. Rom., 7 Ecclus. VII, 31 sqq.; Gal. IV, 14 

P. II, c. 7, qu. 26 sq. sqq.; i Thess. V, 12-13; i Tim. V, 

6 Jos. Laurentius, S.J., Inst. luris 17. S. Greg. VH. Registr., I. VIII, 
Eccles., 2nd ed., pp. 47 sqq. 


and supporting the priesthood in spite of the 
physical and moral defects of its representatives. 

"None but those who love scandal," says Bishop Linsen- 
mann, "will contribute to the fall of a weak priest and 
then abandon him to his fate. By honoring its priests a 
congregation not only gives proof of its high character, 
but lends them moral support, and in return receives moral 
support from them." 8 To the unfaithful or renegade 
priest, on the other hand, may be applied the French 
proverb : " Men profit by treason, but despise the trai 
tor." 9 Don Bosco advises Catholics to be silent rather 
than speak ill of a priest St. Vincent de Paul says: 
" Consider the matter as we will, brethren, we can con 
tribute to no higher cause than the training of a worthy 
priesthood." 10 

The duties of those who have received Holy Orders are 
treated in "Special Morals." 1X 

READINGS. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. IV, pp. 52 sqq. 
Th. Slater, S.J., A Compendium of Moral Theology, Vol. II, 
pp. 241 sqq. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theologiae Moralis, Vol. 
Ill, nth ed., pp. 541 sqq. S. Woywod, O.F.M., in the Eccles. 
Review, Vol. LIX, No. 2, pp. 157 sqq. 

epist. ai: "Si carnales patres et Studiosorum Pauperum, Augsburg 

matres honor are iubemur, quanta 1620. 

magis spirituals*?" (Migne, P. L., 11 See Exposition of Christian 

CXLVIII, 601). Doctrine by a Seminary Professor, 

9 Linsenmann, Lehrbuch der Mo- Vol. III. J. Kinane, "Clerical Ob- 

raltheologie, p. 240. legations" (under the new Code of 

9 "On pro fife de la trahison, et Canon Law), in the Irish Eccles. 

I on dHe-te le traitre." Record, Fifth Series, Vol. XI, No. 

loCfr. J. Gretser, S. J., Mtecenas 606, pp. 468 sqq. 



Marriage was instituted by God for the propa 
gation of the human race. 1 Christ raised the 
contract to the dignity of a Sacrament. 2 

The Sacrament of Matrimony is a most impor 
tant institution both from the moral and the 
social point of view. The duties it imposes may 
be briefly described as follows : 

i. OBLIGATION. No individual human being, 
whether man or woman, is obliged to enter the 
married state. The words of the Creator, "In 
crease and multiply and fill the earth," are to be 
regarded as a blessing; 3 but even if they embod 
ied a formal command, they would bind only the 
race as a whole, not each individual member, for 
the object of the command, i. e., the propagation 
of humankind, can be attained even though many 

1 Gen. I, 27 sq.; II, 18-24- St. 17; IX, i, 7; XVII, 20 sq.; XXVIII, 
Augustine, Contra lulian. Pelag., 3; XXXV, n; XLVIII, 3 sq. St. 
Ill, c. 25, n. 57; ibid., IV, c. 7, n. Augustine, De Peccato Orig., c. 35, 
38 (Migne, P. L., XLIV, 731, 757)- n. 40: "Ilia Dei verba: Crescite et 

2 Matt. XIX, 4-6; Eph. V, 21-32. multiplicamini, non est damnando- 
Cone. Trident., Sess. XXIV, De rum praedictio peccatorum, sed fe- 
Matr., can. i. Cat. Rom., P. II, c. cundatarum benedictio nuptiarum." 
8, qu. 14-16. (Migne, P. L., XLIV, 405). 

3 Gen. I, 26; cfr. Gen. V, *; VIII, 



remain unmarried. 4 The New Testament dis 
tinctly teaches that marriage is not an obligation 
binding all, but that, on the contrary, virginity 
is a higher good (bonum melius) because it 
enables man to devote himself wholly to the serv 
ice of God. To lead a single life for religious or 
moral motives is better than to marry. 5 

Besides voluntary virginity, just described, 
there is another kind, altogether involuntary or 
compulsory, due to physical, moral or social 
causes. The conditions of life in which a man 
is placed may be such as to preclude marriage. 
Thus he may be unable to find a mate, or he may 
be physically unfit, or suffer from defects or in 
clinations which make a happy marriage impos 
sible or, at any rate, extremely doubtful. It is 
no sin to remain unmarried for such and similar 
reasons. But to refuse to assume the duties of 
the married state out of pure selfishness, e. g., be- 

4 Cat. Rom., P. II, c. 8, qu. 12. quae tamen omnia debita sunt multi- 

St. Thomas, Summa Theol., 2a 2ae, tudini, sed per unum impleri non 

qu. 152, art. 2, ad i: "Praeceptum possunt." Ibid., 3a, Suppl., qu. 41, 

datum de generatione (Gen. I, 28) art. i sq. H. Denifle, O.P., Luther 

respicit totam multitudinem ho- und Luthertum, Vol. I, 2nd ed., pp. 

minum, cui necessarium est, non so- 268 sqq. (Volz s translation, I, i, 

lum, quod multiplicetur corporaliter, Somerset, O., 1917, pp. 261 sqq.). 
sed etiam, quod spiritualiter proficiat. 6 Matt. XIX, 10 sqq.; i Cor. VII, 

Et ideo sufficienter providetur hu- 25 sq., 32 sqq. Cone. Trident., 

tnanae multitudini, si quidam carnali Sess. XXIV, can. 10: "Si quis di- 

generationi operam dent, quidam xerit, statum coniugalem anteponen- 

vero ab hoc abstinentes, contempla- dum esse statui virginitatis vel caeli- 

tioni divinorum vacent ad totius hu- batus, et non esse melius ac beatius 

wani generis pulchritudinem et salu- manere in virginitate out caelibatu, 

tern: sicut etiam in exercitu quidam quam iungi matrimonio, anathema 

castra custodiunt, quidam signa sit." 
deferunt, quidam gladiis decertant, 


cause of an inordinate love of pleasure, or in or 
der to be able to continue in vicious habits, 6 is con 
trary to the moral law and exposes a man to great 

However, we must be slow to condemn unmarried per 
sons, for they may be actuated by perfectly legitimate 
motives which they do not care and are under no obliga 
tion to reveal even to their confessor. 

One who is too weak to lead a chaste life and unwilling 
to employ the moral and religious means which would en 
able him to live continently, 7 is in duty bound to marry, 
and the confessor should tell him so. 8 However, it is 
necessary to proceed with caution in such cases, because 
the question of marriage is a most delicate and impor 
tant one, and continence has to be practiced at certain 
times even in wedlock. St. Paul expressly teaches that 
no one should be forbidden to marry, and in spite of his 
high regard for widows, frankly admits that for many of 
them it would be better to marry again. 9 

6 "Non amator coniugii, sed libi- voverit; qui te hortatur, ut voveas, 

dinis servus." Cfr. St. Augustine, ipse adiuvat ut reddas." (Migne, 

Confessiones, 1. VI, c. 15, n. 25 P. L., XXXVII, 1717). St. Thomas, 

(Migne, P. L., XXXII, 732) , C. Summa Theol., 3 a, Suppl., qu. 42, 

Krieg, Wissenschaft der Seelenlei- art. 3, ad 3: "Adhibetur mains re- 

tung, Vol. I, pp. 318 sqq. medium [contra concupiscentiae 

T Mark XIV, 38; i Cor. X, 13. morbum] per opera spiritualia et 

Cone. Trident., Sess. XXIV, can. g carnis mortificationem ab iilis, qui 

"Si quis dlrerit, . . . posse omnes matrimonio non utuntur." 

contrahere matrimonium, qui non 8 i Cor. VII, 9: Kpelaaov ydp 

sentiunt se castitatis, etiamsi earn eariv ya/j.TJ<rat y irvpovo-Qai. On 

voverint, habere donum, anathema the meaning of uri and of the vow 

sit, quum Deus id rede petentibus of celibacy see Denifle, Luther und 

non deneget nee patiatur, nos supra Luthertum, Vol. I, 2nd ed., pp. 92 

id, quod possumus, tentari." Sess. sqq. (English translation by Volz, I, 

VI, cap. ii : "Deus impossibiha non i, pp. 100 sqq.). 

iubet." St. Augustine, Enarr. in 9 i Cor. VII, i sq., 8 sq., 39 sq.; 

Ps., CXXXI, n. 3: "Nemo praesu- i Tim. IV, 3; V, 5, 14 sq. 
mat i/iribus suis se reddere, quod 


OF THE SACRAMENT. These are partly negative 
and partly positive. 

a) MOTIVES. The motives by which a person 
is led to embrace the married state must be mor 
ally licit. 

a) Both parties must be convinced that they 
are called to the married state and that they pos 
sess not only the necessary knowledge but like 
wise the religious and ethical qualities without 
which married life cannot prove pleasing to God 
nor helpful to the contracting parties. 10 As the 
sexes are drawn together indiscriminately by the 
natural stimulus of sensual and intellectual at 
traction, the gratification of the sexual instinct n 
is not a sufficient moral motive to justify mar 
riage. The same is true of greed, Platonic love, 
so called, and other purely secular motives. 
None of these suffices to constitute matrimony 
a truly moral relationship. 

There is nothing wrong in attending to physical 
beauty and natural attraction in selecting a part- 

lOEcclus. VII, 27 sq.; i Tim. II, 11 The Roman Catechism (P. II, 
15. Rit. Rom., tit. 7, c. i, n. i: C. 8, qu. 8) admonishes parish priests 
"Uterque sciat rudimenta fidei, to teach the faithful that the nature 
quum ea deinde filios suos docere de- and import of marriage consist in 
beant." For the instruction of the bond and obligation, and that, 
bridal couples in the duties of their besides the consent expressed in the 
new state of life there are available manner prescribed by the Church, 
a number of useful books, e. g., consummation is not necessarily re- 
Gerard, Marriage and Parenthood quired to constitute a true marriage. 
(New York: Jos. Wagner), and oth- Cfr. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacra- 
ers. ments, Vol. IV, 2nd ed., pp. 184 sqq. 


ner for life, but this motive should not be made a 
primary one. 12 Of considerably more importance 
than natural charms is the possession of material 
means assuring an income and a satisfactory so 
cial position which offers solid guarantees for 
the adequate support of a family. It is also per 
fectly legitimate to take into consideration the 
reasonable wishes of parents and relatives. 
Though the validity of marriage does not depend 
upon the consent of the parents (consensus pa- 
rentum) of either party, both are in duty bound 
to pay due regard to the rights and interests 
of their respective families. A marriage con 
tracted against the will or without the blessing 
of parents whose demands are reasonable, lacks 
one of the moral foundations of wedlock and 
one of the principal guarantees of marital happi 
ness. 13 Commendable moral motives are: a de- 

12 Cfr. Gen. XXIV, 16; XXIX, rum requiris? Placet uxor honest ate 
17. Tertullian, De Cultu Fern., 1. magis quam pulchritudine. . , . Non 
II, c. 2: "Accusandus decor non possumus reprehendere divini arti 
est, ut felicitas corporis, ut divinae fids opus, sed quern delectat corpo- 
plasticae accessio, ut animae aliqua ris pulchritudo, multo magis ilia de- 
vestis urbana." (Ed. Leopold, P. lectet venustas, quae ad imaginem 
II, 87). St. Ambrose, De Offic,, I, Dei est intus, non foris comptior." 
n. 83: "Nos eerie in pulchritudine (Migne, P. L., XVI, 48, 312). 
corporis locum virtutis non ponimus, IDEM, De Abraham, 1. I, n. 6: "Non 
gratiam tamen non excludimus, quia tarn pulchritudo mulieris, quam vir- 
verecundia et vultus ipsos solet pu- tus eius et gravitas delectat mrum." 
dore obfundere gratioresque red- (P. L,, XIV, 423). 
dcre. Ut enim artifex in materia 13 Cone. Trident., Sess. XXIV, 
commodiore melius operari solet, sic De Reform. Matr., c. i ; Cat. Rom., 
verecundia in ipso quoque corporis P. II, c. 8, qu. 26; Gury, Comp. 
decors plus eminet." IDEM, De Theol. Mor. t Vol. II, n. 569 sqq. ; 
Inst. Virg., n. 30: "Cur tu vultus Kenrick, Theol. Mor., Vol. II, pp. 
dccorem in coniuge magis quam mo- 289 sq. 


sire for mutual happiness and sanctification, the 
wish to rear a family according to God s holy 
will, etc. 

Broadly speaking, it is better to marry young than to 
wait too long. Most of those who are called to the mar 
ried state will find it to their advantage to marry at an 
age when they are still pliable and enjoy their full 
physical powers. If a man postpones marriage too long 
he is apt to lose courage and become unfit for married 
life. Husband and wife grow accustomed to each other 
more easily if both are young and tractable and inspired 
by high ideals. Needless to add, no man should marry 
until he is able to support a family. 

Persons who are physically underdeveloped or suffer 
from some hereditary disease or other serious bodily 
ailment, should not marry. The normal development and 
good health of the female is of special importance. 
Marital happiness largely depends on the health of the 
wife. No girl ought to think of marriage before she is 
twenty. The husband should be several years older than 
the wife, and able to exercise self-control. A great deal 
of misery is caused by people marrying too young. 

The Church discourages, and to a certain extent for 
bids, marriage among blood relations, because such 
unions frequently result in stunted and defective chil 
dren. The Mosaic law forbade them as harmful for 
the offspring of the contracting parties as well as for the 
nation at large. 1 * 

To prevent grievous disappointments, which are all too 
apt to endanger conjugal happiness, the contracting par 
ties should be frank with each other in regard to their pe 
cuniary means and all other temporal matters of impor 

14 Lev. XX, 17. 


) The Church earnestly warns her children 
against mixed marriages. Except for the grav 
est of reasons no sensible Catholic will marry a 
person belonging to another religion. The nature 
and purpose of marriage demand true piety and 
virtue in both parties, in order that they may as 
sist and sanctify each other. 15 The Catholic, 
therefore, who knowingly and willingly marries a 
person having no religious or moral convictions, 
or a false religion, commits a sin and is guilty 
of an immoral act. There can be no true unity 
of mind and heart, no harmony between hus 
band and wife, least of all in the upbringing 
of children, if they differ in this most essential 
matter of religious belief. But the Church s op 
position to mixed marriages rests on a more 
important consideration even than that. She re 
gards the Sacrament of Matrimony as a symbol 
of Christ s union with His Church 16 and a nurs 
ery of souls. Hence she is perfectly justified in 
disapproving of mixed marriages and permit 
ting them only with reluctance and under certain 
well defined conditions. 17 

b) PREPARATION. As the reception of this 

15 Cfr. i Thess. IV, 3-7; i Tim. Notre Dame, Ind., 4th ed., 1917; G. 
II, 15; i Pet. Ill, 1-7. Schlachter, C.PP.S., Mixed Mar- 

16 Eph. Vj 22-23; c fr- T Cor. VII, riages, Collegeville, Ind., 1915; W. 
39; Col. Ill, 1 8. P. Schanz, Die Fanning, S.J., in the Catholic En- 
Lehre von den hi. Sakramenten, pp. cyclopedia, Vol. IX, pp. 698 sq. ; 
713 sqq. A. Devine, C.P., The Law of Chris- 

17 Cfr. A. A. Lambing, Mired tian Marriage, New York, 1909. 
Marriages, Their Origin and Results, 


Sacrament is a most important step, fraught with 
grave and lasting consequences, the contracting 
parties should prepare themselves carefully by 
cleansing their souls and rekindling their religious 
ardor. It is the fervent desire of the Church, 
and in full conformity with her practice, that both 
bride and groom go to confession and receive 
Holy Communion immediately, or at least within 
three days, before marriage. 18 To receive this 
Sacrament in the state of mortal sin is in itself 
a mortal sin and a sacrilege. Making a general 
confession may be advisable, but is not, gener 
ally speaking, of obligation. The nupturients 
should abstain from undue intimacy before mar 
riage and when the time has come to plight their 
troth, they should do so in the presence of the 
required witnesses. To be canonically valid a 
promise of marriage must be made in writing and 
signed by the nupturients, their pastor or bishop, 
or at least two witnesses. 

Persons engaged to be married should not live together 
under the same roof. 19 Another thing to be discouraged 
is too protracted "company-keeping," which, as experi- 

18 Cone. Trident., Sess. XXIV, Ref. Matr., cap. i. Rit. Rom., tit. 
De Ref. Martr., c. i: "Sancta syno- 7, c. i, n. 14: "Moneat parochus 
dus coniuges hortatur, ut, antequam coniuges, ut ante benedictionem sa- 
contrahant, vel saltern triduo ante cerdotalem in templo suscipiendam in 
matrimonU consummationem sua eadem domo non cohabitent, neque 
peccata diligenter confiteantur et ad matrimonium consumment, nee etiartt 
sanctissimum Eucharistiae sacramen- simul maneant, nisi aliquibus pro- 
turn pie accedant." pinquis vel aliis praesentibus." 

19 Cone. Trident., Sess. XXIV, De 


ence teaches, is rarely compatible with chastity. Parents 
have a duty in this regard which they must not neglect. 
They should keep a watchful eye on their children 
even after they are "engaged." The young people them 
selves should remember that undue liberties taken before 
marriage, besides being sinful and highly displeasing to 
God, are apt to undermine that mutual respect which is so 
necessary an element of happiness in married life, espe 
cially after sensuality has abated. 

As marriage is valid only when contracted in con 
formity with the rules of the Church, nupturients should 
scrupulously obey the precepts of Canon Law. Above all 
they should not attempt to get married if there is a 
diriment impediment between them. To do so would be 
a mortal sin and the marriage itself invalid. If two 
persons have married without being aware of the existence 
of a diriment impediment, they must stop conjugal inter 
course as soon as they learn of the fact and have the 
marriage bond "healed," or else part forever. 

To neglect to ask for a dispensation where there is a 
forbidding impediment, is also mortally sinful. Nobody 
is obliged to reveal the existence of a marital impedi 
ment if the revelation involves injury to his own good 
name or that of another, 20 and those who wish to get 
married should be instructed that dispensations for secret 
impediments need not be requested through their respec 
tive pastors, but may be obtained through any confessor. 21 

Holy Scripture nowhere says that it is necessary to 
have an ecclesiastical ceremony in connection with mar- 

2oCfr. St. Alphonsus, Theol. essentials in an appendix (pp. 215 

Mor., 1. VI, n. 995. sqq.) in the preparation of which 

21 Dr. Koch relegates the entire we have had the valued assistance 
subject of marriage impediments to of two eminent canonists and a pro- 
Canon Law, to which it properly be- fessor of moral theology, 
longs. For utility s sake we add the 


riage, but St. Paul s declaration that marriages are con 
tracted "in the Lord" and "sanctified by the word of God 
and prayer," 21 naturally led the early Christians to ask 
the Church for her blessing when they were about to enter 
this holy state. That Matrimony between Catholics 
should not be contracted without the approbation and co 
operation of the Church follows from its nature as a 
Sacrament. While civil marriage is per se neither im 
moral nor irreligious, yet as a consequence of the unnat 
ural rupture between State and Church it necessarily in 
volves disrespect to the latter and is sinful. 22 That mar 
riage should take place in facie Ecclesiae is a demand 
practically as ancient as the Church herself, though the 
Fathers regarded the blessing of bishop or priest merely 
as a condition of licitness, not of validity. 23 

No matter what laws the State may make with regard 
to marriage, the rules of the Church never cease to bind 
the faithful and cannot therefore be disregarded without 
sin. Catholics who wish to contract marriage are in duty 
bound, after observing the formalities required by the 
State, to declare their mutual consent in facie Ecclesiae, 
i. e., ordinarily, before their pastor and two witnesses, 
and they should be reminded that it is only by virtue of 
this act that they really become man and wife, fully en 
titled to the privileges of the married state. 

To seek a husband or a wife by advertising in the 
newspapers is sometimes justified by circumstances and 
therefore morally licit. 

21 i Cor. VII, 39; i Tim. IV, 5; united with the consent of the 
cfr. i Cor. X, 31; Col. Ill, 17; i Bishop, that the marriage be accord- 
Pet. IV, ii. ing to the Lord, and not according 

22 Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments, to lust. Let all things be done to 
Vol. IV, pp. 240 sq. the honor of God." (Funk, Patr. 

23 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epist. Apost., Vol. I, 2nd ed., 292, 6; Kir- 
ad Polyc., c. 5: "It is right for sopp Lake, The Apostolic Fathers, 
men and women who marry 40 b VQ! I, London 1912, p. 272). 


The wedding celebration should be kept within the 
bounds of decency and good order, so that Christ and 
His blessed Mother could attend without offence, as they 
did at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee. Here, too, 
St. Paul s admonition should be heeded : "Rejoice in the 
Lord always !" 2 * 

Wedding feasts should not be celebrated on Saturday, 
because if the celebration extends far into the night, as 
often happens, there is danger that the participants may 
miss Mass on the Sunday following. 

READINGS. Th. Slater, S.J., A Compendium of Moral Theology, 
Vol. II, pp. 268 sqq. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. IV, pp. 
140 sqq. F. P. Kendrick, Theologia Moralis, Vol. II, pp. 279 sqq. 
H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theologiae Moralis, Vol. Ill, pp. 
572 sqq. M. A. Gearin, C.SS.R., "The Matrimonial Law Ac 
cording to the New Code," in the Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. 
LVIII, No. 5 (May 1918), pp. 473-495- H. A. Ayrinhac. S.S.. 
Marriage Legislation in the New Code of Canon Law, New York, 

24 Phil. IV, 4. Cone. Trident., trahi potest. Nuptiae vero qu& de- 

Sess. XXIV, De Ref. Matr., c. 10. cet modestia et honestate fiant; 

Rit. Rom-, tit. 7, c. i, n. 18- sancta enim res est tnatrimonium 

"Matrimoniutn otnni tempore COP- sancteque tractandum," 



1. Whereas the object of the Sacraments 
is to bring the more important events of human 
life into relation with the grace of God, and there 
by to sanctify them, the Sacramentals 1 were in 
stituted for the purpose of placing the whole of 
life under the special protection of Providence, 
either by warding off the influence of the devil 
and his cohorts, or by calling down the blessing 
of God upon certain persons and things and dedi 
cating them to His service and the pious use of 
the faithful. 2 

2. The Catholic, who is expected to employ all 
things for the honor of God, 3 has a special duty 
in connection with the Sacramentals, namely, to 
respect and use them with faith and confidence 
and with a contrite and humble heart for the sal 
vation of his soul as well as to obtain temporal 

1 Cfr. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., fectum, tamen ordinatur aliquo 

33, Suppl., qu. 29, art. i : "Est haec tnodo ad illam actionem princi- 

differentia, quo sacramentum did- palem." 

tur ilia actio Ecclesiae, quae attingit 2 Matt. XX, i; Mark XVI, 17 

ad effectum principaliter intentum in sq. ; i Tim. IV, 4 sq. St. Thomas, 

administratione sacramentorum; sed Summa Theol., 33, qu. 65, art. r, ad 

sacramentale dicitur ilia actio, quae, 3 and 6. 

quanivis non per ting at ad ilium ef- 3 i Cor. X, 31. 



The number of the Sacramentals may not be 
limited. The most popular are: the sign of the 
cross, pronouncing the holy name of Jesus, 4 the 
use of Holy Water, 5 and various blessings of ob 
jects commonly employed by man, e. g., the house 
in which he lives, the field he tills, the fruits he 
raises, etc. Needless to say, these objects, when 
blessed by the Church, should be used with due 
respect but without superstition. 

"It would be quite natural to apprehend that 
the blessing of ordinary objects should lead to 
a profanation and degradation of sacred things. 
However, this is not the case. These objects 
are in reality destined for a higher service and a 
superior form of existence than that which they 
now have, and the blessing pronounced upon them 
by the Church is but an anticipation of that su 
pernatural form of being which was typified in 
Paradise immediately after the Creation. That 
the use of the Sacramentals sometimes gives rise 
to profanation or superstition does not diminish 
their religious and moral importance." 6 

4 Cfr. Tertullian, De Corona, c. crucem." (Migne, P. L., XXII, 

3: "Ad omnem progressum atque 4 2 O- St. Augustine, De Cat. Rud., 

promotum, ad omnem aditum et c. 20, n. 34 (P. L., XL, 335). 

exitum, ad vestitum et calceatum, ad A. Gastoue, L Eau Benite, Paris 

lavacra, ad mensas, ad lumina, ad X 9O7- A. A. King, Holy Water: A 

cubilia, ad sedilia, quaecunque nos Short Account of the Use of Water 

conversatio exercet, frontem crucis f r Ceremonial and Purificatory 

signaculo terimus." (Ed. Leopold, Purposes in Pagan, Jewish, and 

P. I, 1 88). St. Jerome, Epist., 22, Christian Times, London 1926. 

n. 37: "Ad omnem actum, ad om- 6 F. X. Linsenmann, Lehrbuch 

em incessum manus pingat Domini der Moraltheologie, p. 248. 


READINGS. Pohle-Preuss, The Sacraments, Vol. I, 2nd ed., St. 
Louis 1917, pp. in sqq. Chr. Pesch, S.J., Praelectiones Dog- 
maticae, Vol. VI, 3rd ed., pp. 141 sqq. G. Arendt, S.J., De Sacra- 
mentalibus Disquisitio, 2nd ed., Rome 1900. A. A. Lambing, The 
Sacramentals of the Holy Catholic Church, New York 1892. F. 
Probst, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen, Tubingen 1857. H. Le- 
clercq, O.S.B., art. "Sacramentals," in the Cath. Encyclopedia, 
Vol. XIII. Sabetti-Barrett, S.J., Compendium Theologiae Mo- 
ralis, pp. 531 sqq. H. Noldin, S.J., Summa Theologiae Moralis, 
Vol. Ill, pp. 49 sqq. 



According to the laws of most of our States, marriage 
is nothing but a legal contract. As such the State pre 
scribes for it the conditions under which it shall be valid 
or invalid. In many States marriages between close 
relatives, or marriages between white people and negroes, 
are null and void. In other words the States set up im 
pediments to the marriage contract. 

The Catholic Church also recognizes in marriage a con 
tract, but a contract elevated to the dignity of a Sacra 
ment; and because marriage is a Sacrament, the Church 
alone, under whose jurisdiction Christ placed all the Sac 
raments, has the power to make rules and regulations with 
regard to this sacred contract, and to set up impediments 
which render it unlawful or invalid also as a Sacrament. 

Some of these impediments, however, have been 
changed or modified in the course of centuries, as the 
needs of the time demanded. Especially is this the case 
in the new Code of Church laws promulgated by our 
Holy Father Benedict XV, in 1917, and of binding force 
since Whitsunday, 1918. In Canons 1036-1058, which 
form Chapter II of the section on the Sacrament of 
Matrimony, " Of the Impediments of Matrimony in Gen 
eral," these impediments are laid down with great clear 



First of all they are divided into (i) forbidding, (2) 
nullifying, (3) public, (4) occult, (5) impediments of 
minor and (6) of major grade. The four last divisions 
are made principally to facilitate dispensations, and this 
treatise will not suffer if we disregard them entirely. 
But we must say a few words about the forbidding and 
nullifying impediments as modified by the new Code. 

ments (impedimenta impedientia) are those which inter 
dict a marriage under pain of mortal sin, yet do not ren 
der it invalid if it is contracted in spite of the prohibition. 
The state of mortal sin or excommunication prohibits 
marriage, though this is usually not counted as a forbid 
ding impediment. The forbidding impediments in the 
strict sense are: 

1. The prohibition of the Church, viz., if the Pope for 
the whole Church, or the bishop for his diocese inter 
dicts an intended marriage for grave reasons. Such rea 
sons would be, for instance: 

(a) Grave suspicion that impediments exist to the pro 
posed marriage; 

(b) Fear that the marriage will cause great trouble ; 

(c) Refusal of parents to give their consent to the 
marriage of their children, etc. 

The Church also forbids (a) Marriage between a Cath 
olic and a non-Catholic; and (/?) Marrying without the 
publication of the banns. 

2. Solemn marriages are forbidden from the first Sun 
day of Advent, inclusive, till the day after Christmas, ex 
clusive, and from Ash Wednesday, inclusive, till the Mon 
day after Easter, exclusive. During this time marriages 
may take place, but without the solemn blessing of the 
bride, except by special permission of the Ordinary. 

3. A simple vow of virginity, of perfect chastity, of 


not marrying, of receiving sacred orders, or of embracing 
the religious state, also hinders marriage (can. 1058, i), 
and a man (or woman) who would marry while bound by 
such a vow would commit a mortal sin, unless he had 
the firm will to keep his vow in the married state, which 
would, however, be deceiving the other party, or unless 
both parties consent to respect the vow during the mar 
riage, which can hardly be allowed to them on account 
of human frailty. 

4. Another and a new prohibitive impediment set up 
by the Code (canon 1059) is legal relationship arising 
from adoption in countries in which the civil law renders 
such marriages unlawful. Accordingly, a boy who is 
legally adopted by a family cannot marry the daughter of 
the couple who adopted him in places where the civil law 
forbids it. 

5. The main prohibitive impediment under the new 
Code is that called mixed religion. It interdicts marriage 
between Catholics and baptized heretics or schismatics. 
Canon 1060 " most severely " forbids such marriages, and 
adds that * if there is danger that the Catholic party, or 
a child born of the union, may lose the faith, the marriage 
is forbidden also by divine law." 

Canon 1061 states the conditions under which the 
Church grants a dispensation for a mixed marriage, viz.: 
(a) For just and grave reasons; (b) Upon a written 
guarantee that the non-Catholic party will not interfere 
with the religion of the Catholic spouse, and that all chil 
dren born to them will be baptized and brought up in the 
Catholic faith; (c) Upon the morally certain assurance 
that these conditions will be fulfilled. 

Canon 1062 adds that "the Catholic party is obliged 
prudently to try to convert the non-Catholic party." 

Canon 1063 warns the parties to such a mixed mar- 


riagc not to attempt, cither before or after the ceremony 
in the Catholic Church, to have the marriage blessed by a 
Protestant minister. 

Canon 1065 ( i) exhorts the faithful not to marry 
persons who have publicly given up the faith, or joined 
a condemned society, and (2) forbids pastors to assist 
at such marriages without grave reasons and the permis 
sion of the bishop. Lastly, canon 1066 commands pas 
tors not to assist at the marriage of public sinners if they 
refuse to go to Confession, unless for a grave cause, con 
cerning which they should, if possible, consult the Ordi 

Apart from the dispensation, other circumstances may 
exist which may render the marriage decidedly inadvis 
able, or, it may be, even sinful. 

word itself implies, diriment impediments (impedimenta 
diriwcntia) are such as not merely forbid a marriage but 
render it invalid. There are sixteen such diriment or nul 
lifying impediments. 

I. A substantial error with regard to a marriage is 
usually quoted by moralists as the first diriment impedi 
ment. It would exist, for instance, if a man, instead 
of marrying the woman of his choice, would by mistake 
marry another; or if he were to make an explicit 
condition (i. e., conditio sine qua non) to marry only a 
rich person, or one of noble birth or well educated, 
whereas the one actually married proved to be the con 
trary. If such a condition is not expressly mentioned, 
however, or if the error concerns only accidental quali 
ties, the marriage is valid. Note that it is not allowed, 
under pain of mortal sin, to marry with any condition 
like those mentioned. For marriage, which God wants 


to be indissoluble, is not to be rendered soluble for frivo 
lous reasons. 

2. Slavery is given in Moral Theology as the second 
diriment impediment. It makes a marriage between a 
slave and a free person, who is ignorant of the condition 
of the other party, impossible. Whilst an error about the 
qualities or conditions of a person docs not nullify a mar 
riage, as stated above, the Church has wisely made an 
exception in setting up this impediment, because a slave 
is subject entirely and in all things to the will of his mas 
ter, which is adverse to the marriage rights of a free man. 
Now-a-days slavery is practically abolished nearly every 
where, and hence this impediment hardly counts. 

3. Grave fear, through which a person is unjustly 
forced to marry, is another impediment which nullifies 
marriage. Marriage is of such importance that it re 
quires full liberty of action. 

4. A person must also be of proper age in order to be 
able to contract a valid marriage. The age limit has been 
changed by Canon 1067 of the new Code, according to 
which ( i) males cannot validly marry before they have 
completed their sixteenth and females their fourteenth 
year. The same canon ( 2) exhorts pastors to deter 
young people from getting married until they have 
reached the age usual in their country. 

5. Another diriment impediment is mentioned in Canon 
1068, vis., impotence, if it precedes marriage and is per 
manent, whether it be known to the other party or not, 
or whether it renders the other unable to cohabit prop 
erly with anybody or only with the intended spouse. If 
there is any doubt about the existence of this impediment 
the marriage is not to be hindered. Neither does sterility 
prevent marriage according to the same Canon. 


6. Canon 1069 insists on the natural law impediment 
called " ligamen " or bond of a previous marriage, which 
renders invalid any attempted marriage during the life 
time of a married couple, even if their marriage was 
never consummated. The only exception is the so-called 
" Pauline privilege." St. Paul allows the Catholic party 
to marry again if the non-baptized or non-Christian party 
refuses to live in peace with the former. " For," as the 
Apostle says, " a brother or sister is not under servitude 
in such cases." * Even in case the former marriage has 
been found invalid or has been annulled, the same canon 
forbids a new marriage before permission has been ob 
tained from legitimate authority (i. e., the bishop or the 
Holy See). 

7. Marriage between persons baptized in, or converted 
to, the Catholic Church, on the one hand, and unbaptized 
persons on the other (disparity of worship), is declared 
invalid in Canon 1070. The law speaks of persons bap 
tized in, or converted to, the Catholic Church, i. e., of 
persons who ought to be Catholics. Therefore a baptized 
non-Catholic who never joined the Church can validly 
marry an unbaptized person. The same Canon also de 
clares (2) that if at the time of such a marriage a per 
son was commonly held to have been baptized, or if the 
Baptism was of doubtful validity, the marriage should be 
upheld until it is proved that one party was, and the 
other was not, baptized. 

8. Attempted marriage of clerics in higher orders, or 
of religious with solemn vows, or of religious with sim 
ple vows (which in this respect have the privileges of 
solemn vows) is declared invalid by canons 1072 and 


9. No marriage can exist between a woman who was 

i 1 Cor. VII, 15. 


forcibly abducted and the man who abducted her for the 
purpose of marriage, even if the former went of her own 
free choice to the place where she is forcibly detained by 
the latter for the purpose of inducing her to marry him. 
But the impediment ceases as soon as the woman is set 
free and willingly consents to the marriage (canon 1074). 

10. The impediment of crime, as described in canon 
1075, contains three distinct impediments. The first is 
contracted if a man and a woman, while at least one 
of them is lawfully married, commit adultery with the 
mutual promise to marry each other, or if they at 
tempt civil marriage. The second is contracted if a 
man and a woman, while at least one of them is law 
fully married, commit adultery with each other and one 
of them kills his or her lawful spouse. The third impedi 
ment is contracted if a man and a woman cooperate 
physically or morally in bringing about the death of hus 
band or wife, even though the crime of adultery was not 

11. The diriment impediment of consanguinity or 
blood-relationship extends, according to canon 1076, to 
all degrees in the direct line upward (father, grandfather, 
etc.), and downward (son, grandson, etc.). In the col 
lateral (side) line it extends only to the third degree, in 
clusive. The same canon also forbids marriage when 
there is positive doubt whether the parties are related by 
blood in any degree of the direct line or in the first de 
gree of the collateral line. 

12. Affinity (relationship by marriage) constitutes a 
diriment impediment in all degrees of the direct line, and 
up to the second degree, inclusive, of the collateral line 
(canon 1077) ; which means that the marriage of a 
woman after the death of her husband with any of his 
blood relatives in the direct line, and to the second de- 


gree of the collateral line, is invalid. Canon 97 declares 
that the impediment of affinity arises only from a valid 
marriage, whether consummated or not. The former im 
pediment of affinity from sinful intercourse is dropped. 

13. Public decorum is another diriment impediment 
(canon 1078). It may arise from an invalid marriage, 
whether consummated or not, or from public and notori 
ous concubinage. The law forbids and annuls a mar 
riage between such a man and the woman s blood rela 
tions in the first and second degree of the direct line, and 
vice versa. 

14. Besides the diriment impediments of bodily rela 
tionship mentioned in the last three numbers, there is also 
a spiritual relationship (canons 1079, 768), which exists 
(a) between the one who baptizes and the person bap 
tized, and (b) between the one baptized and his or her 
sponsor. This relationship is not contracted if Baptism 
is given conditionally, unless the same sponsor again acts 
in the ceremony of solemn Baptism (canon 763). 

15. Another diriment impediment (canon 1080) is that 
of legal relationship arising from adoption. It consti 
tutes a diriment impediment only where it is so regarded 
by the civil law. Thus if the civil law should declare the 
marriage of an adopted child with a natural child of the 
same family invalid, it would be invalid also in the eyes 
of the Church; not so, however, if the laws of the State 
in which the marriage takes place admit such marriages 
as valid. 

1 6. The impediment of clandestinity is thus defined in 
canon 1094 : " Only those marriages are valid which are 
contracted before the parish priest, or the Ordinary of 
the diocese, or a priest delegated by either of these, and 
at least two witnesses." 


READINGS. J. M. O Hara, The Laws of Marriage Simply Ex 
plained According to the New Code, Philadelphia, 1918. M. J. 
O Donnell, " Matrimony in the New Code," in the Irish Ecclesi 
astical Record, Fifth Series, Vol. XI (1918), Nos. 6 sqq. S. 
Woywod, O.F.M., The New Canon Law, New York, 1918, pp. 
209 sqq. H. A. Ayrinhac, S.S., Marriage Legislation in the New 
Code of Canon Law, New York, 1919. Fr. Chas. Augustine, 
O.S.B., Commentary on the New Code of Canon Law, Vol. V, St. 
Louis 1920. J. J. C. Petrovits, The New Church Law on Matri 
mony, Phila., 1921, pp. 67-291. 


Abortion, 87. 

Abraham, 38. 

Absolution, 177 sqq. ; when it 
should be denied, 179 sq. ; 
when deferred, 182. 

Accessory to the sins of oth 
ers, 62. 

Accomplice, 158. 

Adam, 13, 38, 43. 

Administration of the Sacra 
ments, requisites of valid, 
108 sqq. 

Adultery, 74. 

Advertence required for mor 
tal sin, 30 sq. 

Advertisements, Matrimonial, 

Albert the Great, Bl., 192. 

Ambition, 69. 

Ambrose, St., I. 

Amendment, Purpose of, 146 

Ananias and Saphira, 39, 82. 

Angels, Sin of the, n sq. 

Anger, 65, 81 sqq. 

Animus iniuriandi, 10. 

Anointments in Extreme Unc 
tion, 195 

Apocalypse, 84. 

Apostasy, 92 sq. 

Aristotle, 4. 

Arrogance, 69 sq. 

Astrology, 96. 

Athenians, 82. 

Atonement, 14, 102 sq. 

Attrition, 116, 138, 140 sqq., 
142 sqq. 

Augustine, St., I, 3, 8, 12, 13, 
18, 19, 20, 26, 36 sq., 38 sq., 
4, 56, 58, 61, 92, 95, 

Aureolus, 192. 


Avarice, 55, 65, 71 sqq., 88. 


Bankruptcy, 89. 

Baptism, 108, 112, 115, 116, 118 
sq., 153- 

Beatitude, 10, 192. 

Benediction of the Bl. Sacra 
ment, 134. 

Bernard, St., 40. 

Blasphemy, 82, 91 sq. 

Blessed objects, 213. 

Blessed Sacrament, Devotion 
to the, 133 sq. 

Boastfulness, 70. 

Bonaventure, St., 21, 65, 192. 

Bosco, Don, 46, 200. 

Calumny, 78, 87. 
Capital punishment, 88. 
Capital sins, 64 sq., 67 sqq. 
Capreolus, 192. 
Carnal sins, 54 sqq., 65. 
Catechism, Roman, 40, 139, 

144, 197. 

Causae occasionales peccati, 37. 
Charity, 23, 78, 92. 
Chastity, 45, 73. 
Christ, 14, 28, 37, 45, 52, 56, 78, 

in, 123, 127, 128, 131, 133, 

135, 191, 210. 
Circumstances which change 

the species of a sin or add a 

new species, 155. 
Civil marriage, 210. 
Commandments of God, Sins 

against the, 52 sq. 
Commandments of the Church, 

125 sq., 137 sq., 152. 
Commission, Sins of, 53 sq. 



Communion, Holy, 113, 116, 

123 sqq. ; Duty of receiving, 

124 sqq.; Easter, 125 sq.; 
Preparation for, 126 sqq.; 
Thanksgiving after, 127 ; 
Frequent, 130 sqq.; 193. 

Company-keeping," 208 sq. 
Concupiscence, 37, 42, 43 sqq., 

46, 55 sq., 65, 105. 
Conditional absolution, 179 sq. 
Confession, 29, 137 sq., 139, 

151 sqq., 167 sqq., 193- 
Confessor, 28, 46, 113, 132, 153, 

158, 162 sqq., 169, 183 sq. 
Confirmation, 116, 121 sqq. 
Connivance, 63. 
Conscience, 32 sq. ; 53, 156. 
Consecration, 129. 
Consent of the will to mortal 

sin, 31 sq., 40, 63, 74. 
Contrition, Perfect, 109 sq., 

126, 142 sqq. 
Contumely, 61. 
Cooperation in injustice, 62 


Covetousness, 71 sqq. 
Cross, Sign of the, 213. 
Cruelty, 77, 87, 88. 

Damnation, Eternal, 31, 88. 

Death, 14, 20, 22, 78, 124, 137, 
181, 189, 190, 192. 

Debitum, 165. 

Decalogue, 52, 53 

Decretum peccandi, 61. 

Deed, Sins of, 57 sqq. 

Defending evil, 64. 

Defrauding laborers of their 
just hire, 89 sq. 

Delectatio morosa, 58 sq. 

Demonism, 96. 

Desires, Sinful, 60 sqq. 

Despair, 94. 

Devil, 11, 14, 39 sqq., 45, 78, 96. 

Devil worship, 96. 

Disgust for morality and re 
ligion, 83 sq. 

Disobedience, 10 sq. 

Drunkenness, 79 sqq. 

Duns Scotus, 192. 

Easter duty, 125 sq., 152. 

Ember weeks, 199. 

Envy, 55, 65, 77 sqq., 94- 

Eucharist, Holy, 123 sqq. 

Eve, 13. 

Evil, 4 sq., 27, 37, 81. 

Examination of conscience, 

Extreme Unction, 116, 188 sqq. ; 
Subject of, 188 sq.; Duty of 
receiving, 192 sqq. ; Duty of 
administering, 194 sqq. 

Faith, 92, 99, 105, 118, 121 
Fast, Eucharistic, 128 sqq. 
Fellowmen, Sins against one s, 


Fetus, Baptism of, 120. 
Flattery, 63. 
Flesh, Sins of the, 54 sqq., 64 


Fornication, 55, 74. 
Forty Hours Devotion, 134. 
Freemasons, 112. 
Free-will, 7, 36, 104 sq. 
Frequent Communion, 130 sqq. 
Frick, 16. 

Gaudium de peccato, 60. 

General confession, 161 sq., 

Gluttony, 55, 65, 79 sqq. 

God, Not the author of sin, 5 
sq. ; In how far He cooper 
ates in it, 7 sq. 

Gourmandise, 79. 

Grace, 17, 27, 34, 44, 93, 95, 98 

Greed, 55, 71 sq. 

Green, Hetty, 72. 

Gregory the Great, St., 61, 68. 

Gury, J. P. (S. J.), 28. 




Habits, Sinful, 3, 9, 33, 67sqq. 
habitus peccaminosi, 3, 33, 

67 sqq. 

Hatred, 55, 78. 
Heli, 63. 
Hirscher, 16. 
Holy Ghost, Sin against the, 

18, 66, 82, 91 sqq. 
Holy Hour, 134. 
Holy Orders, 116, 197 sqq. 
Holy Water, 213. 
Hope, 92 
Humility, 70 sq. 
Hypocrisy, 70. 


Idolatry, 6, 55. 

Ignorance, 30, 108, 164 sqq. 

Impediments, Marriage, 209, 

215 sqq. 

Impenitence, 92 sqq. 
Impurity, 73 sqq. 
Incest, 74. 

Indifference to virtue, 83. 
Indulgences, 186 sq. 
Infants, When they should be 

baptized, 119; In utero ma- 

tris, 119 sq. ; Still-born, 120. 
Innocent V, 192. 
Innocent XI, 49. 
Insane, 189. 

Instructing penitents, 164 sqq. 
Intemperance, 65, 76, 79 sqq. 
Intention, 32, 115 sq. 
Invalids not obliged to keep 

the Eucharistic fast, 130. 

James, St., 21, 38, 43, 83. 
Jansenism, 132. 

ealousy, 88. 

ews, 82. 

ob, 39; 

ohn, St., 43. 

ohn the Baptist, St., 81. 

ubilee indulgence, 187. 

udas, 8, 36, 39. 

ustification, 102 sqq. 

Kern, Jos. (S. J.), 191. 
Kleutgen, Jos. (S. J.), 16. 
Krieg, C, 168. 

Laborers, 89. 

Lateran, Fourth Council of, 

T I25 
Law, i sq. 

Laxism, 27, 132. 

Lex aeterna, 2. 

Linsenmann, 16, 166, 168, 200. 

Lord s Prayer, 18. 

Lucifer, u. 

Lust, 61, 65, 73 sqq., 80, 88 sq. 

Luther, 19. 

Luxury, 55, 73 sqq. 


Magic, 96. 

Malice, 25, 30, 61, 64 sqq., 87, 
92, 94. 

Mary, Blessed Virgin, 44, 211. 

Masochism, 88. 

Mass, 109 sq., 129, 133 sq. 

Matrimony, 109, 113; Obliga 
tion, 201 sqq.; Duties with 
regard to the reception of, 
204 sqq. 

Mercy, Divine, 12. 

Merits, Supernatural, 98 sq. 

Minister of a Sacrament, 108 

Mixed marriages, 207. 

Monopolies, 89. 

Monstra, 120. 

Mortal sins, 16 sqq. 

Murder, 77, 78, 87 sq. 


New Testament, 53, 202. 
Noe, 80. 

Occasions of sin, 46 sqq.; 



Proximate and remote, 47 ; 
Voluntary and necessary, 48; 
Occasio quae est in esse and 
occasio quae non est in esse, 
48 ; How to avoid, 49 sq. 

Offense, 10. 

Old Testament, 53. 

Omission, Sins of, 53 sq. 

Onanism, 74. 

Oppression, 89. 

Origen, 81. 

Original sin, 12. 

Orphans, 89. 

Parents, Duties of with regard 
to Baptism, 118 sq. ; Right of, 
to be consulted regarding 
first Communion of their 
children, 132 ; Rights of in 
regard to marriage of chil 
dren, 206 ; Duties of, towards 
children when "engaged," 

Parvitas materiae, 30, 32, 33, 
73, 78, 168, 175, 185- 

Paul, St., 6, 7, 8, 36, 37, 38, 39, 
45, 50, 52, 54, 55, 69, 72, 74 
sq., 79, 81, 82, 191, 203, 209, 

Peccata mortalia ex toto genere 
suo ex genere suo non toto 
ex genere suo per acci- 
dens, 32. 

Peccatum irremiss ibile, 93. 

Pederasty, 74. 

Penance, 108, 109, no, 112, 113, 
116; Necessity of, 135; Duty 
of receiving, 136 sqq. ; Req 
uisites of worthy reception, 
138 sq. ; Contrition, 140 sq. ; 
Purpose of amendment, 146 
sqq.; Confession, 151 sqq.; 
Questioning and instructing 
penitents, 162 sqq. ; Seal of 
confession, 167 sqq.; Abso 
lution, 177 sqq.; Satisfaction, 
183 sqq. 

Penitential discipline, 18. 

Penitents, Duty of the confes 

sor to question and instruct, 
162 sqq. ; Obligation of peni 
tents to perform the penance 
imposed, 184 sq. 

Pesch, 16. 

Peter de Palude, 192. 

Peter Lombard, 68, 92. 

Peter, St., 50, 82. 

Pharisees, 56, 81. 

Piracy, 87. 

Pleasure, Morose, 58 sq. 

Pohle, Jos., 38. 

Poor, Oppression of the, 89. 

Prayer, 45, 50, 83, 106, 185. 

Presumption, 69, 94. 

Pride, 55, 56, 65, 68 sqq. 

Priesthood, 198 sqq. 

Prisoners, 87. 

Profiteering, 89. 

Promise of marriage, 208. 

Property, 89. 

Prostitutes, 112. 

Provocation to sin, 63. 

Publice indigni, 112. 

Purpose of amendment, 146 

Questioning penitents, 162, 
sqq. R 

Rape, 77- 

Raymond of Pennafort, St., 26. 

Reception of the Sacraments, 

Requisites of worthy, 115 


Regeneration, Moral, 98 sqq. 
Relapse, 149. 
Resisting the known Christian 

truth, 94. 

Resolutions, Good, 146 sq. 
Revenge, 78, 88. 
Richard a Mediavilla, 192. 
Rigorism, 27, 132. 

Sacramentals, 212 sqq. 
Sacramenta propter homines, 

Sacraments, The, 107; Req- 



uisites of valid administra 
tion, 108 sqq. ; Of worthy 
reception, 115 sqq.; Baptism, 
118 sqq.; Confirmation, 121 
sqq.; Eucharist 123 sqq.; 
Penance, 135 sqq. ; Extreme 
Unction, 188 sqq.; Holy Or 
ders, 197 sqq.; Matrimony, 
201 sqq. 

Sacrilege, 116, 127. 

Sadducees, 81. 

Sadism, 88. 

Sadness, 77 sq. 

Sage, Russell, 72. 

Saligia, 68. 

Satisfaction, 183 sqq. 

Scandal, 32, 43, 80, 112, 129. 

Schell, H, 16, 24. 

Scrupulous persons, 162. 

Seal of confession, 113, 167 

Seduction, 74. 

Selfishness, 25, 72, 78. 

Seminaries, 199. 

Sharing in unjustly acquired 
goods, 64. 

Shiftlessness, 83. 

Sickness, 22. 

Signa contritionis, 141. 

Silence, 63. 

Simulatio sacramenti, 113. 

Sin, Nature of, I sqq.; Char 
acteristic notes, 3 sqq. ; Ori 
gin of, ii sqq.; Mortal and 
venial, 16 sqq. ; Serious and 
light, 29 sq. ; Philosophical 
and theological, 30 sq. ; 
Principal kinds of, 52 sqq. ; 
Sins against the Ten Com 
mandments, 52 sq. ; Of com 
mission and omission, 53 
sq. ; Against God, oneself, 
and one s fellowmen, 54; Of 
the spirit and of the flesh, 
54 sqq. ; Of thought, word, 
and deed, 57 sqq.; Accord 
ing to, and against nature, 
74 sq. ; Sins that cry to 
Heaven for vengeance, 85 

Slander, 78, 87. 

Slater, Thos. (S. J.), 60 sq., 


Slaves, 87. 
Sloth, 65, 83 sq. 
Sodomy, 74, 85, 88 sq. 
Solicitation, 158. 
borcery, 96. 

Spirit, Sins of the, 54 sqq. 
Sponsors, 121, 122. 
State and marriage, 210. 
Stephen, St., 82. 
Stolz, Alban, 150. 
Suicide, 76, 87. 
Sybaritism, 79. 

Tears of contrition, 141 sq. 
Temptations, 36 sqq., 44. 
Thomas a Kempis, 77, 150. 
Thomas Aquinas, St., 2, 3, 4, 6, 

8, 9, 21, 22, 26, 36, 41, 55, 57, 

81, 82, 98, 122, 192, 193. 
Thought, Sins of, 57 sqq. 
Thucydides, 21. 
Trent, Council of, 8, 10, 14, 

106, 125, 130, 140, 160, 191, 


Truck system, 90. 
Trusts, 89. 


Unbelief, 76. 
Unchastity, 65, 88. 
Usury, 89. 

Vanity, 68 sq. 

Vengeance, 81, 85 sqq. 

Venial sins, 14, 16 sqq., 145. 

Viaticum, 124, 129, 196. 

Vincent de Paul, St., 200. 

Violation of the seal of con 
fession, 174 sqq. 

Violence, 82. 

Virginity, 201 sq. 

Virtues, Theological, 92. 

Vocation to the clerical state, 

230 INDEX 

W sq., 41, 54, 56, 99, 104, HI, 


War, 87. Witchcraft, 55. 

Wedding celebration, 210 sq. Word, Sins of, 57 sqq. 
Widows, 89, 203. World, The, As a source of 

Will, Human, 2, 25, 31 sq., 36 sin, 42 sq. 


nci 2 


NOV 3 


DEC 11 





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handbook of moral theology 


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